The metaphysics of human freedom in Schopenhauer and Saint Augustine

Lance Byron Richey, Marquette University


Schopenhauer considered Augustine the first philosopher to have grasped fully the difficulties surrounding the question of human freedom, although he faults Augustine for answering it "like a Church Father," that is, affirming human freedom in spite of the philosophical difficulties involved in doing so. If anything, Schopenhauer let himself be misled by Church historians in his estimation of Augustine's belief in freedom. In this dissertation, I argue that Augustine (or at least the later Augustine) was just as much a determinist as Schopenhauer concerning human behavior. However, they differ insofar as Augustine harmonized human action and the natural world through his notion of an all-encompassing divine providence while Schopenhauer performed a naturalistic reduction of consciousness to the physical order. Nevertheless, I argue that both men ultimately sacrificed human freedom in favor of a comprehensive and necessitating explanatory model for all events. As a propaedeutic to the purely historical investigation into Augustine's and Schopenhauer's determinisms, I also examine the tensions between the need for an explanation of human behavior and the deterministic implications of causal explanations. Finally, I defend libertarianism based on admittedly heterodox, dual reality interpretation of Kant's phenomenon/noumenon distinction, wherein the transcendental ego is understood as the source of human agency and as operative independent of what Kant calls "natural necessity." While my reading is incompatible with Kant's assumption of a single causal order in nature, due to the ability of the human agent to act contrary to the causality found in the nature, I argue that it is the best metaphysical foundation for guaranteeing human freedom and preserving a limited role to causal explanations within nature.

Recommended Citation

Richey, Lance Byron, "The metaphysics of human freedom in Schopenhauer and Saint Augustine" (1995). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9600859.