Philipp van Limborch, on the twin faculties of understanding and will

It might become apparent that he was a friend of John Locke:

The Understanding is that Act of the Soul which apprehends and judges of any Object under the Notion of a Being, that is either true or good. And this Act, as ’tis an Act of the pure Intellect, is evidently natural and necessary, and apprehends more or less clearly any Object as it bears more or less proportion to it. This is evident in all the Actions that are observable in the Understanding, as

(1.) in the simple Apprehension: When once an Object is proposed to the Understanding that is adequate to it, it necessarily apprehends it clearly and distinctly (LOCKE), and cannot do otherwise. Whereas on the contrary, if any disporportionable Object should be proposed to it, the Apprehension thereof must needs be obscure and confused, unless by Education, or frequent Use, the Understanding be so far raised as to acquire a due proportion with its Object, and then it will distinctly apprehend it.

(2.) In judging of a Proposition, whether affirmative or negative, true or false; the Understanding cannot but assent to a plain Proposition, and suspend its Judgment concerning an obscure one.

(3.) In Syllogistical Deductions there lies the same Necessity; that is, when a Syllogism is proposed wherein a Conclusion is fairly deduced from the Premises, the U understanding cannot but acknowledge the Conclusion to be just, provided it understands and apprehends it rightly.

(4.) And lastly, in judging of various Objects compared with one another, the Understanding prefers that Object which seems to be most eligible, and postpones that which it looks upon to be less eligible.

The Will is that Act of the Soul by which it is inclined to any Object that is proposed to it under the Notion of Good. The Property of the Will is Liberty, whereby the Will has an Authority over its own Action, either of doing or not doing it, which is so far essential to it, that without it there would e no Will: Nay it is the very Foundation of Vertue and Vice, and of all the Religion which God requires of Men. For if the Will were not free, there would be no Vertue in obeying, nor Vice in disobeying God: All Laws both Divine and Human would be ridiculous and unjust: Promises and Threatenings, Exhortations and Dehortations would be all to no purpose: And Rewards as well as Punishments would be unjust, and unequal. But the Consent of all Men, and the universal Voice of natural Conscience, plead for such a Liberty of Will. ‘Tis Conscience that tells every Man, that he has a Principle of Action lodged in himself; that he has a Power of committing or omitting that Action, and if begun he may either continue or forbear such Action; and therefore applauds and absolves him for having done well, but accuses and condemns him for having done ill. 

“. . . the Understanding has no such Dominion over the Will . . .the last and highest of its Acts is that Judgment, whereby it suggests to the Will that this or that is eligible; and among things eligible, that this is Good, that Better, etc. or, ’tis fit to do this, and omit that; which is stilled not a Despotical but a Political Authority. However ’tis in the power of a Man’s Will to obey, or not obey what his understanding dictates and advises him to do.” 

“The true Liberty therefore of the will consists in an active Indifference, whereby having all things requisite for Action it may act or not act, and may do this rather than that.” 

Philipp van Limborch, A Compleat System or Body of Divinity, 140-142.


Kindly respond

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s