Volume 78, Issue 2, Spring 2004
Paul J. LaChance
Boethius on Human Freedom
It is commonly asserted that Boethius defined free will as the judgment of the will or a rational choice. Accordingly, sin or evil is identified with ignorance or vice of the intellect, which prevents or distorts rational deliberation. However, Boethius adopted a more complex understanding of the self-motion of the soul and, consequently, articulated a more nuanced account of sin and the healing effects of Providence. Boethius treated human freedom as a complex including a natural motion, identified as the desire for happiness, the determination of reason following the judgment of deliberation, and the sovereignty of the will over its own acts and, to some extent,
over other acts of the soul. Sin, therefore, involves mistaken ideas about reality but also deformations in the affective orientation of the will to the world and in the exercise of the will’s control over the soul.