The Free Will in Augustine, the Middle Ages, and the Reformation
This chapter outlines developments in conceptualizing ‘free will’ on the part of such Christian thinkers as Augustine, Aquinas, and the ‘voluntarist’ theologians who increased the power of the free will to unprecedented proportions by insisting that the will could even ignore the advice of reason. In the Reformation, Protestant thinkers, building on earlier Christian traditions, maintained a somewhat self-contradictory position in regard to free will. They admired its capacity to accomplish great things, especially in ancient times. Yet they also insisted, more than their Christian predecessors had, that without ‘prevenient grace,’ the free will could only produce sin. This premise sets the stage for Hamlet, a play that tries to show how the admirable quality of free will was nonetheless inevitably divorced from what would be considered ethical conduct.