[quote=AnAtheist]A recent discussion in another thread led me to an interesting question:
Does a free thought, i.e. a thought that came from an act of Free Will, have a cause?
If so, is it really free? I say, if there are a chain of deterministic steps that led to this thought, it is not free.
If not, wouldn’t that seriously hurt the reasoning made by Thomas v. Aquin and others, that everything must have a cause, and to avoid an infinite chain of causes, God must exist as the ultimate cause (prima causa)?
== Freedom of the will is not a faculty of willing that is wholly autonomous and “free-standing”. For Thomas, the will is free when it is non-necessitated, and is directed as it ought to be directed. For it is created with an orientation or bias towards God - as is the rest of the being called man. It is not self-determined, but meant to co-operate with the rest of our human nature in inclining us to our goal, which is God. It is free - but not with “liberty of indifference”, to do or be anything it likes - it has what is called “liberty of specification”, freedom to direct us to the God Who made it, the God Who at every moment provides by His care for its freedom. There is a huge amount of philosphy here, and even more theology.
So it can perfectly well be working as the entity it is, yet be every moment kept in being by the Loving Providence of God. It is God Who provides the “environment” for it to exist at all, and, more particularly, for it to be the free will that it is. So God is its Guarantor - not a mere external entity Who exists as but one of a number of influences in the universe upon how the universe (including free will, which is one of the creations in that universe) exists.
Far from it - God’s influence is internal, not purely external as ours is. And God is not one cause among many, but the source of all created causality - that of our wills included
I forgot: causality is of many kinds: it is far more than a series of links in a chain. Causes can be concurrent, dynamic, personalist, efficient, principal, formal, material, transcendent, and so on. God’s causality is never remote - He is always intimately involved with His handiwork - never a far-off God. As witness the Nativity. ==