Ten Theologians Respond to the Unification Church - Edited by Herbert Richardson 1981

Freedom and the Will: A Unification Theory -- Herbert Richardson

In this paper I outline that understanding of the will and of freedom which I believe is implicit in Divine Principle. Divine Principle offers important suggestions for further thinking: the notion of polyspheric willing and the concept of freedom as perfect justice are two such ideas. They are important for theology, for ethics, and for politics. Unification thought rejects the individualistic model of human actions presupposed by the teleological/deontological debate. It also rejects the communal model of human action presupposed by contextualists and Marxists. In my judgment, it offers resources to help us think beyond the dilemmas faced by contemporary thinkers.

Willing as a Polyspheric Act

Unification theology describes human action as polyspheric. For example, Moon says we must act on the "individual, familial, tribal, national, world, and God levels." Again, the scope of salvation is said to apply to the religious, political, economic, educational, linguistic scientific, familial, and individual spheres. Unification theology does not have, as far as I know, any theoretical conception of the human act as polyspheric. However, in my judgment, such a conception is implicit in its various descriptions of action. My goal, in this paper, is to outline a theoretical conception of human freedom as polyspheric action. My goal is not to be original, but to attempt to unify several theories of action. In so doing, we will come to see that the polyspheric character of human action is already understood.

The word "sphere" is here defined as a level, or dimension, of action which has a unique end, or purpose. The unique ends, or purposes, of action are:

the economic, or "event-forming"

the scientific, or "rule-forming"

the social, or "group-forming"

the linguistic, or "meaning-forming"

the spiritual, or "character-forming"

the judicial, or "judgment-forming"

The distinctiveness of the spheres, or dimensions, pertains to the uniqueness of their several ends. Events, rules, groups, meaning, character and judgment are not only different ends, but they are incomparably different, i.e., unique. This is why they are not merely several ends that might belong to the same sphere, but are several ends each belonging to different spheres,

Ethical theories have considered these various spheres in relation to the conception of the rightness, or goodness, of action. For example, Kant discussed whether the rightness of an action was determined by whether it produced a good-yielding happiness, or whether it conformed to a rule capable of universalization. The Kantian perspective, challenged by later utilitarianism, and recently developed by the teleological/deontological debate, discriminates two distinct spheres of action: the rule-forming and the event-forming. Every act both produces an event and also expresses a rule. The rule it expresses relates both to the event-forming and the rule-forming spheres, namely, that (1) if I act in such a way, then the event I seek will happen, and (2) if I act in such a way, then the possibility of acting (as a way of producing events) will be maintained.

The rule-forming dimension of human action seeks to develop, or maintain, the order within which human action can be rationally purposive and, therefore, free. I call this dimension the "scientific" sphere, (It is traditionally called the "moral" sphere.)

The event-forming dimension of human action includes those things which can be intended as particular ends of human action for the sake of the happiness they bring.

Human actions can aim at causing an event which brings happiness and at expressing, or establishing, a rule which maintains the rationally purposing character of human action itself. In fact, any particular choice -- or aspects of that choice -- includes both these spheres. They are two dimensions of the same choice and not two different choices. This is why we speak of the polyspheric character of human action.

However, from this analysis, we can also see that a human action can include not merely event-forming and rule-forming dimensions, but also several others: the group-forming, the meaning-forming, and the character-forming.

The group-forming dimension of every act is of special interest to contextual ethics. Every action has a social character, It reaffirms a set of social relations, or it can expand or decrease that set of relations, Sexual intercourse can have an amative as well as procreative function, i.e., it can bond two persons thereby creating a group. For example, abortion is an act which, whether right or wrong, excludes prenatal life from the group of moral subjects. All human actions have some group-forming character. This group-forming character is always seen in manners, courtesy, and style.

In a society with high group consciousness, the contextual character of human action is the most important criterion of moral rightness and wrongness. How an action affects the group is the most important consideration in evaluating it. In Christianity, with its strong emphasis on God's desire to unify the human race, there is an ethical disposition towards universality, and this becomes a contextual value that affects our evaluation of all human actions. Human actions that establish social solidarity with a more universal community have a greater worth than those which have a particularistic tendency.

A fourth dimension of every human action is the linguistic. All human action is significative. Just as speech is a form of action, so action is a form of speech -- especially moral speech. More simply, whenever we do something (for we do what we think is right), this shows what we mean by our words. In societies where action is systematically at variance with words, language itself is destroyed. That is, people learn that words do not mean what they say, but they mean what is done. Because all action is significative, therefore, all action forms language.

Recent studies of Nazi and Communist destruction of language through propaganda help us appreciate how all action has a linguistic dimension. Hence, a moral action must not only aim at a good, act according to a right-rule, and create a universal context, but it must also tell the truth. It must maintain the meaning of human life by expressing truth in action. If it fails to do this, it does injury to the linguistic sphere.

A fifth sphere of action is the spiritual. Here I define the spiritual as that which pertains to a person because he is formed by the effects of his own free action. While, on the one hand, our acts express our competence as free beings, one of their chief effects is also to shape our character. Every free action has a reflexive effect upon the subject of that action and, taken cumulatively, our actions determine our character and make us the kind of people we are.

Were our actions, in dl their other spheres, morally laudable, we would tend to become (through their reflexive effects) persons possessing ideal moral character. As it is, however, the accumulated failures of our actions in their other spheres have an impact upon our own character. We become diverted from our "true selves," blind to moral truth, and now formed in the image of our own sin.

But the formation of character is not merely the reflexive consequence of actions that pertain to other spheres. Just as there are sphere-specific actions in the order of language (e.g., correcting grammar) or in the order of social relations (e.g., getting married), so there are sphere-specific actions in the order of character formation (e.g., the prayerful imitation of Christ, or confession or penance). Sphere-specific actions have, as their primary aim, the production of the personal character of the moral subject, strengthening his capacity to act rightly in the several other moral spheres. However, his right or wrong action in the several other moral spheres also reflexively affects his own character (in his ability to act rightly).

There remains one further sphere of human action. We have, to this point, discriminated five functions: the event-forming, the rule-forming, the group-forming, the meaning-forming and the character-forming. We have suggested that these functions define five dimensions, or spheres, that pertain to every human action:

the economic -- event-forming

the scientific -- rule-forming

the social -- group-forming

the linguistic -- meaning-forming

the spiritual -- character-forming

I have also suggested that ethical theoreticians have given consideration to the qualities of these spheres as criteria for moral action. Hence, teleological, deontological, contextual, and meta-ethical theories relate to the first four spheres and traditional spirituality is specifically interested in the fifth.

The problem that now arises is how are these several spheres that exist within each human act to be reciprocally related and harmonized? Because they are quite distinct from one another, they often do exist in disharmony For example, a person can choose a happiness-yielding event by violating a universal rule, or can follow the rule and not be happy. Or a person can affiliate with a universal community and be obliged to violate rules of significative moral language, or vice versa. The fact of the matter is that it is difficult to act in such a way that there is harmony among the several dimensional tendencies of our actions. We usually establish a unity within our actions by raising the moral criterion of one or another of the spheric tendencies to a principle of primacy. (For example, Kant extracts the principle of moral action from the rule-forming sphere.)

Because all of the spheres are intrinsically necessary to every action, one cannot argue that any one is more important than the others. Moreover, because the values they individually involve are incomparable, one cannot argue from a hierarchical ordering as a way of producing unity. For these reasons, the sole way to unify the spheric values in human action is by harmonizing them. This activity of harmonization must itself be yet another unique sphere of action: the judicial.

The moral activity which seeks to establish the best possible harmonization among the several moral tendencies within every action is justice. Justice is the weighing of incomparables which takes effect as a judgment giving specific form to the polyspheric act. In this act, a judgment is expressed as how best to include (or exclude) the various spheric tendencies.

Under conditions of sin, the best justice we can obtain involves the sacrifice of some values and some spheres in order to save others. Under these conditions, the harmony justice can obtain is, at best, a balancing of goods and evils, rights and wrongs, accommodations and hopes. The sole principle relating to such "imperfect justice" I wish specially to note, however, is that justice always aspires to full redemption. Hence, justice must always act so that the possibility of perfect future harmonization is maximally maintained.

Even under conditions of human perfection, i.e., perfect harmonization, the activity of justice is necessary. For example, just as in music any theme can be expressed in several variations which are all equally perfect (their difference does not arise from degrees of imperfection), so in even a perfect world there is need for justice. The judicial sphere, therefore, is essential to every human action. It is the judgment which establishes the maximal harmony of moral tendencies within the human act and, even in a perfect state, creates multiple new perfect harmonies.

Freedom as the Perfection of the Will

The concept of freedom pertains, in the normative case, to the act of perfect willing. A free will is a will which chooses as it should. Failures of a will to act as it should are lacks of its perfect freedom. Hence, a will which is unfree has lost its perfection -- chief of which is losing its capacity to act justly, or to harmonize all the sphere-specific values which it simultaneously desires.

When I desire both that the moral rule for my act be universalizable and I also choose a good that I would not also want for everyone else, then my two desires are in contradiction. This contradiction in my own desires cannot be harmonized and, hence, I myself cause my own unfreedom or my own inability to will perfectly.

Of course, I could will freely if I could bring my desires into harmony. As Anselm noted, the truly free man wants only what is right and all that he wants is right: hence, there is harmony between his two specific desires.

Given the fallenness of man, the sole being whom we can imagine possessing perfect freedom is God. God's will is perfectly free because all that God desires is capable of harmonization. There is, therefore, no limitation on God's freedom or His creative power. In this conception, the moral perfection of God is the basis for His power and sovereignty. In the same way, when a human being overcomes sin (the self-contradiction in his own desires) he is capable of willing like God and gains in His capacity for creative (free) action.

The cause of all unfreedom is internal disharmony of desires. The supposition that there are external constraints on one's freedom confuses the fact that one cannot have everything one desires with the idea of a limitation of one's power of free choice. This limitation arises in the encounter with two types of situations: moral and non-moral. A moral limitation to one's willing is encountered when the will of another impedes one's own desires. Since, in this case, one can gain one's own desires only at the cost of denying the will of another, such a purpose would stand in contradiction with the sphere-values of rule universality and of group-extension (at least!). If one should go ahead and attain some particular desire by sacrificing these other values, then one would act in contradiction to those very conditions that maintain even relative free will. Hence, a moral impediment to one's choice cannot be construed as a limitation on one's freedom -- even though it may be an impediment to one's willing.

The same type of argument applies also to being limited by non-moral entities. Obviously, in such situations, when someone cannot have what he desires, then he should transform his desire to what is really possible. To want what is not possible is to create one's own unfreedom. It is a self-limitation on one's freedom to desire what is impossible, a self-limitation that can only be removed by transforming one's desires so that they can be effectively willed. Hence, it is no limitation on freedom that a person wants what he cannot attain through his choice.

The imagination that external impediments to our actions constitute limitations on our freedom arises from regarding freedom as a form of mere willing (velle). Mere willing, sometimes called spontaneous willing, is the abstract idea of a single desire taken in separation from the conditions of the moral act. Where persons act spontaneously, giving momentary precedence to a single sphere-specific willing over the other willings that are also necessary, then their patterns of choices evidence a back-and-forth choice and reversal, doing and undoing, as if they could not make up their minds. But, marrying today, divorcing tomorrow, marrying again, divorcing again, or wanting children, complaining when one has them, impregnation, abortion -- these are not the patterns of action of free beings. These patterns reveal an actor engaged in constant self-contradiction of his own previous actions. That such a person feels he acts spontaneously, abstracting the dominant desire of the moment from its place in the polyspheric moral self (and from the continuity of time) does not make his actions free. His spontaneous actions are not free because they never are effective; they are constantly being undone by the subject of these actions himself, who thereby destroys his own freedom.

The concept of human freedom, like the concept of God's freedom, pertains to the conditions of volitional power or effective action. Freedom is the perfection of willing, i.e., the condition of its efficacy. Without freedom, our actions always lack full efficacy. As Augustine said, a sinful act is non posse non peccare, a deficient (not an efficient) willing. In the same way, according to Augustine, a free act is one which is perfectly efficacious because it cannot fail to achieve its purposes.

For man, at least, the concept of efficacious willing (i.e. free will) must be determined with respect to the temporal order. (We shall later see this is also true for God.) Efficacious willing is willing through which a man is able to attain his ends, or shape his own life, through the whole course of time. This requires that he act in a pattern of choices which are not self-contradictory, but reciprocally harmonious and self-reinforcing. A sinful man, day by day, acts to undo his previous day's choices. A man possessing freedom acts, day by day, to build on (thereby reaffirming and also extending) what he has previously chosen. When this occurs, a man creates his future because his past actions are efficacious in making his future purposes become real.

The characteristic of free human willing is efficacy in shaping the future by creating continuity of events in time that bring a person eventually to attain his goals. A conception of human freedom is not adequate if it does not account for the capacity of a human being to direct the course of his life towards his own ultimate future and, through his own free acts, to shape his own destiny. Particularly the conception of "consumer freedom" -- the lady in the supermarket confronted by multiplicities of possible choices (products) from which she spontaneously chooses what she prefers -- is a false conception of freedom. In fact, this notion of "consumer freedom" -- emphasizing spontaneous reaction to externally provided possibilities -- is a notion betraying the idea of freedom itself. It is 31984 conception of language where true freedom is taken away in the name of "freedom."

True freedom rests on the possibility of fulfilling one's purpose. Where this purpose is the goal of an entire life, true freedom requires perseverance as its chief virtue. In the temporal order, a long-range purpose can be attained only step by step, through a series of intermediate purposes which lead towards one's final goals. This means that human freedom requires the exercise of the full range of virtues essential to willing: for example, the exercise of reason in planning and scheduling tasks and the exercise of justice in balancing and harmonizing the various tasks. The characteristic of a free being is that, from the point of view of his purpose, the course of his life can be seen to have a rational order expressive of that purpose.

These same considerations also apply to God's purposes for His creation. If God has a purpose for creation -- and He must have since He created the world -- then that purpose must be exhibited as a rational order of God's action in time. The debate among theologians whether such a "philosophy of history" is possible only reveals how little they understand the character of freedom, For Reinhold Niebuhr, for example, the "freedom" of God is the same spontaneous arbitrariness of a housewife in a supermarket -- a "freedom" unrelated to purposive action, Hence, quite consistent with his denial of God's true freedom and any philosophy of history, Niebuhr also denies that God has a purpose for this world.

If God has a purpose for this world, then the realization of that purpose must take the form of a rational order of historical laws and events that move towards its attainment. In the contemporary world, only Unification and various revolutionary theologies understand this principle and seek to exhibit it as a philosophy of history. These theologies understand the basic truth that if God is the free, purposing Lord of history, then history itself must exhibit a purposive order.

In time, freedom is manifested as an order of events which leads toward the attainment of a goal or goals. To this activity, planning and harmonizing are of crucial importance. However, it has already been pointed out that freedom is, first of all, a spiritual activity. It does not depend upon time. Rather lime depends upon it. Freedom is a supra-temporal activity by which a person determines purposes and possibilities. The temporal act of a person merely expresses, in another order, what has already been established as a spiritual reality: the judgment which, in its perfect form, is the free act of the will. 

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