Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

4.2: Compatibilism

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)



    Liberty What


    Liberty, or FREEDOM, signifies (properly) the absence of Opposition; (by Opposition, I mean external Impediments of motion;) and may be applied no less to Irrational, and Inanimate creatures, than to Rational. For whatsoever is so tied, or environed, as it cannot move, but within a certain space, which space is determined by the opposition of some external body, we say it hath not Liberty to go further. And so of all living creatures, while they are imprisoned, or restrained, with walls, or chains; and of the water while it is kept in by banks, or vessels, that otherwise would spread it self into a larger space, we use to say, they are not at Liberty, to move in such manner, as without those external impediments they would. But when the impediment of motion, is in the constitution of the thing it self, we use not to say, it wants the Liberty; but the Power to move; as when a stone lie still, or a man is fastened to his bed by sickness.


    What It Is To Be Free


    And according to this proper, and generally received meaning of the word, A FREE-MAN, is "he, that in those things, which by his strength and wit he is able to do, is not hindered to doe what he has a will to." But when the words Free, and Liberty, are applied to any thing but Bodies, they are abused; for that which is not subject to Motion, is not subject to Impediment: And therefore, when it is said (for example) The way is free, no liberty of the way is signified, but of those that walk in it without stop. And when we say a Gift is free, there is not meant any liberty of the Gift, but of the Giver, that was not bound by any law, or Covenant to give it. So when we Speak Freely, it is not the liberty of voice, or pronunciation, but of the man, whom no law hath obliged to speak otherwise then he did. Lastly, from the use of the word Freewill, no liberty can be inferred to the will, desire, or inclination, but the liberty of the man; which consists in this, that he finds no stop, in doing what he has the will, desire, or inclination to do.


    Liberty And Necessity Consistent


    Liberty and Necessity are Consistent: As in the water, that hath not only Liberty, but a Necessity of descending by the Channel: so likewise in the Actions which men voluntarily doe; which (because they proceed from their will) proceed from Liberty; and yet because every act of mans will, and every desire, and inclination proceed from some cause, which causes in a continual chain (whose first link in the hand of God the first of all causes) proceed from Necessity. So that to him that could see the connexion of those causes, the Necessity of all mens voluntary actions, would appear manifest. And therefore God, that sees, and disposes all things, sees also that the Liberty of man in doing what he will, is accompanied with the Necessity of doing that which God will, & no more, nor less. For though men may do many things, which God does not command, nor is therefore Author of them; yet they can have no passion, nor appetite to any thing, of which appetite Gods will is not the cause. And did not his will assure the Necessity of mans will, and consequently of all that on mans will depends, the Liberty of men would be a contradiction, and impediment to the omnipotence and Liberty of God. And this shall suffice, (as to the matter in hand) of that natural Liberty, which only is properly called Liberty.


    Artificial Bonds, Or Covenants


    But as men, for the attaining of peace, and conservation of themselves thereby, have made an Artificial Man, which we call a Common-wealth; so also have they made Artificial Chains, called Civil Laws, which they themselves, by mutual covenants, have fastened at one end, to the lips of that Man, or Assembly, to whom they have given the Sovereign Power; and at the other end to their own Ears. These Bonds in their own nature but weak, may nevertheless be made to hold, by the danger, though not by the difficulty of breaking them.



    Liberty Of The Subject How To Be Measured


    To come now to the particulars of the true Liberty of a Subject; that is to say, what are the things, which though commanded by the Sovereign, he may nevertheless, without Injustice, refuse to do; we are to consider, what Rights we pass away, when we make a Common-wealth; or (which is all one,) what Liberty we deny our selves, by owning all the Actions (without exception) of the Man, or Assembly we make our Sovereign. For in the act of our Submission, consists both our Obligation, and our Liberty; which must therefore be inferred by arguments taken from thence; there being no Obligation on any man, which arise not from some Act of his own; for all men equally, are by Nature Free. And because such arguments, must either be drawn from the express words, "I Authorize all his Actions," or from the Intention of him that submit himself to his Power, (which Intention is to be understood by the End for which he so submits;) The Obligation, and Liberty of the Subject, is to be derived, either from those Words, (or others equivalent;) or else from the End of the Institution of Sovereignty; namely, the Peace of the Subjects within themselves, and their Defense against a common Enemy.




    The Greatest Liberty Of Subjects, Dependes On The Silence Of The Law


    As for other Liberties, they depend on the silence of the Law. In cases where the Sovereign has prescribed no rule, there the Subject has the liberty to do, or forbear, according to his own discretion. And therefore such Liberty is in some places more, and in some less; and in some times more, in other times less, according as they that have the Sovereignty shall think most convenient. As for Example, there was a time, when in England a man might enter in to his own Land, (and dispossess such as wrongfully possessed it) by force. But in after-times, that Liberty of Forcible entry, was taken away by a Statute made (by the King) in Parliament. And is some places of the world, men have the Liberty of many wives: in other places, such Liberty is not allowed.


    If a Subject have a controversies with his Sovereign, of Debt, or of right of possession of lands or goods, or concerning any service required at his hands, or concerning any penalty corporal, or pecuniary, grounded on a precedent Law; He hath the same Liberty to sue for his right, as if it were against a Subject; and before such Judges, as are appointed by the Sovereign. For seeing the Sovereign demands by force of a former Law, and not by virtue of his Power; he declares thereby, that he requires no more, than shall appear to be due by that Law. The suite therefore is not contrary to the will of the Sovereign; and consequently the Subject hath the Liberty to demand the hearing of his Cause; and sentence, according to that Law. But if he demand, or take any thing by pretense of his Power; there lies, in that case, no action of Law: for all that is done by him in Virtue of his Power, is done by the Authority of every subject, and consequently, he that brings an action against the Sovereign, brings it against himself.


    If a Monarch, or Sovereign Assembly, grant a Liberty to all, or any of his Subjects; which Grant standing, he is disabled to provide for their safety, the Grant is void; unless he directly renounce, or transfer the Sovereignty to another. For in that he might openly, (if it had been his will,) and in plain terms, have renounced, or transferred it, and did not; it is to be understood it was not his will; but that the Grant proceeded from ignorance of the repugnant between such a Liberty and the Sovereign Power; and therefore the Sovereignty is still retained; and consequently all those Powers, which are necessary to the exercising thereof; ...

    4.2: Compatibilism is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    • Was this article helpful?