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Rogers, Katherin A. Freedom and Self-Creation: Anselmian Libertarianism.

ROGERS, Katherin A. Freedom and Self-Creation: Anselmian Libertarianism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. 248 pp. Cloth $74.00--Katherin A. Rogers is a scholar well-known in Anselm studies for her advocacy of the relevance of this eleventh-century saint, philosopher, and theologian to current debates on free will. Rogers's earlier work, Anselm on Free Will (2013), was thought to be the full working out of Anselm's contribution to the free will debate. However, the arguments in the book under review came to her subsequently as a surprise. On rereading Anselm's works, she claims to have discovered an entirely new theory not only to support theistic arguments for free will, but also to insert a new paradigm into nontheistic positions on the question.

The gist of Rogers's discovery is the idea of self-creation. Anselm, she claims, held that while humans are creatures wholly dependent on God, nevertheless, God created reasoning creatures in his image, which includes the ability to participate in creation. Since God is good through himself, and not through any other source, she has Anselm arguing: "The purpose of freedom is that we should be able to imitate God not just by being good, but by being good from ourselves." In other words, "He [God] has opened for us a small space for independent action and self-creation. The locus of that small space is free choice."

Rogers's discovery is based primarily on Anselm's De Casu Diaboli (The Fall of the Devil) concerning the choice of Satan to choose against God--which Rogers generalizes to all created beings capable of reasoning, for example, angels and humans. In other works, such as De Libertati Arbitrii (On Free Will), Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man), De Concordia Praescientiae et Praedestinationis et Gratiae Dei cum Libero Arbitrio (On the Harmony of God's Foreknowledge, Predestination, and Grace with Free Will), and De Veriitate (On Truth), she finds Anselm to be an "incompatibilist," agreeing that if God is good, and if all beings are created by God, then their actions would be determined by their source. In other words, at first glance it would appear that free will would be incompatible with determinism.

But regarding moral responsibility there is a difference, in that God instilled in certain creatures not only reason but also conflicting desires, thus permitting situations to arise in which reasoning creatures face open options with inconsistent or conflicting "wills" or "affections." Anselm calls this a "torn condition," and it is in the space opened by such situations that the reasoning creature must decide, on its own, which will or affection to follow. This "on its own," or aseity, which Anselm phrases as a se (from one's self), is the key. God does not create evil, he merely permits situations in which rational creatures have to choose. In making such choices, rational creatures become the imagines del by sharing in the creation of their own characters.

For the purpose of bringing her discovery of Anselm's deeper insight into dialogue with contemporary philosophers, Rogers introduces a new figure, the "Anselmian," to carry the debate for her (which she parenthetically admits is "rather than just noting or implying that such views are my own"). Nevertheless, such a more abstracted figure is helpful, for through it Rogers can "cast the discussion in the contemporary idiom and within the contemporary literature" by presenting the basic outline "initially proposed by Anselm" and then filling it out and building upon it. The result is a new, broader, and deeper theory, which Rogers dubs "Anselmian libertarianism."

After introducing Anselmian libertarianism, the rest of the book is devoted to bringing the theory into engagement with all aspects of the modern debate. The plan of the book is that chapters 2 through 4 explain the theory, while the rest of the work defends against possible criticisms taken from contemporary free w ill debate.

Thus, chapter 1 deals with compatibilism in the form of modern "controller" arguments. Chapter 2 digs a little deeper into contemporary discussions of free will, as well as Anselm's distinction between the three meanings of will (voluntas). Chapter 3 explains the importance of "parsimonius agent causation," while chapter 4 spells out the three entailments of it: (a) the ontological status of choice (a choice is not a "thing," but entirely dependent for its "being" on other things and events--the situation), and thus having no ontological status of its own; (b) the "grounding principle," of aseity; and (c) the metaphysical status of the created agent as self-creator.

The second part begins with chapter 5 focusing on objections arising from what Alfred Mele calls "internalism"--the structure of immediate choice. Chapter 6 deals with objections raised by Harry Frankfurt, and others involving alternative possibilities. The next two chapters address different aspects the "luck problem": chapter 7 deals with probabilities and possible worlds; and chapter 8, the locus of responsibility. The final chapter is concerned with the tracing problem, which asks about one's responsibility for character-determined choices where one's character is formed through earlier a se choices. In conclusion, Rogers argues that Anselmian libertarianism can be defended more effectively against objections commonly raised against libertarianism in general.

This is a controversial work. Since its publication in 2015 it has been widely reviewed, and highly praised as an important new contribution to the free will debate (described as "splendid" and "invaluable" by some), while Rogers's thesis and analysis have been vigorously disputed by others.

Besides those interested in the issue of free will, three aspects of this work offer an excellent opportunity for Anselm scholars to join the fray. First, Rogers has been severely criticized--even by some the most ardent admirers of her thesis--for her failure to systematically present the textual basis of the new theory she claims to have discovered. While Rogers frequently refers to Anselm's positions and describes them in her own words, she rarely offers direct quotes, and nowhere brings together the texts on which she relies to allow the reader to see the whole picture. Second, many of the same admirers/critics take her to task for failing to acknowledge, refer to, or engage with any the immense body of scholarship that has been done on Anselm in recent years. Indeed, in the bibliography, Rogers cites no other works on Anselm but her own. The third opportunity for Anselm scholars lies in evaluating Rogers's fundamental thesis. Are the positions that Rogers claims to have discovered in Anselm's writings really to be found there? Some scholars (Thomas Williams, for example) have already published articles taking issue with every point of Rogers's interpretation of Anselm.

Regardless of the consensus that Anselm scholars may eventually reach concerning the validity of Rogers's interpretation of Anselm's writings, her presentation of Anselmian libertarianism offers a new position in current free will debates that will be long debated. It has been widely recognized as a significant contribution, and vigorously engaged.--Ben Novak, Ave Maria, Florida
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Author:Novak, Ben
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2017
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