Date of Award
Rev. Gerald Lynam
What is it? What is it that permits us to follow one line of action rather then another? Constantly throughout every hour, day or year, in fact throughout a life time, we find ourselves selecting one good in preference to another.
The small child, when confronted with the problem of picking either the Saturday afternoon matinee, or the privilege of "staying up with the folks" on Saturday night, finds that he is forced to make a preference, i.e., one course of action selected over the other. When selecting their TV programs, the wise mother will caution her children, "You may have your choice!" she will say, "Either Fran, Kukla and Ollie before dinner, or Hopalong Cassidy later in the evening." Acting upon the supposition that the majority of children seek the most proximate good, she presumes she'll be spared the runaway-wagons, the damsel-in-distress, and the customary fisticuffs after the hero’s gun has shot its capacity.
In the Lenten season, the hardy businessman has the alternative of ham and eggs for breakfast and creamed salmon for dinner, or toast end coffee for breakfast and a thick juicy steak for dinner. In the case of the adult, or the one having reached the age of reason, the proximate good is not always chosen; acting in accordance to reason, he may wish to supplant present satiation with future more desirable appetites. Thus the juicy steak is more likely to win in the end. Although this cannot he a strong and fast rule, viz., that the adult will exchange present desires for future pleasures, because inasmuch as each individual appetite makes its own preference it seeks the most apparent good.
Then just what is this strange power of preference, selection or choice? Webster tells us that choice is that which is "selected with care and due attention to preference." This definition certainly doesn’t hint at any faculty or choice, i.e., an operative tool responsible for selection and preference.
Thus we must look further for an adequate explanation of selection or choice. Brute animals do not have the wide range for selection that man has in choosing. Man is always making choices. A living entity possessing only physical or material faculties is not tantamount to man, but equals a brute animal. Brute animals make choices, but not free choices; ergo, since man is capable of free and undetermined choice, he has a faculty higher than material, viz., spiritual, which is responsible for his actions of selection and choice.
We shell delve deeper into this faculty of choice, or will. We shall discuss its definition, activities, freedom and maladies.
Gilden, William, "The Thomistic Concept Of The Faculty Of Choice" (1955). Philosophy Undergraduate Theses. 52.