Sunday, February 22, 2009

Philo on Free Will II

New Testament Scholar

Yesterday, I posted a passage from Philo on "free will" but had only a couple of English translations to look at. The crucial sentence was this one:
But man, who has had bestowed on him a voluntary and self-impelling intellect, and who for the most part puts forth his energies in accordance with deliberate purpose, very properly receives blame for the offences which he designedly commits, and praise for the good actions which he intentionally performs.
I noted that this comes from On the Unchangableness of God, in The Works of Philo Judaeus, the Contemporary of Josephus (London, H. G. Bohn, 1854-1890) and was translated from the Greek by Charles Duke Yonge. The other translation, I found in Giovanni Reale's Schools of the Imperial Age (edited and translated by John R. Catan):
But man, possessed of a spontaneous and self-determined will, whose activities for the most part rest on deliberate choice, is with reason blamed for what he does wrong with intent, praised when he acts rightly of his own will. (Reale, Schools of the Imperial Age, page 201)
Giovanni Reale provides an interesting discussion on the passage in which this occurs, so interested readers might take a look at what he says. I don't know if John R. Catan personally translated the passages into English or if he borrowed an existing translation. An endnote (page 485, n. 1) refers to important translations in various languages and offers as an English version the one in the "Loeb Classical Library" by F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker (and some kind reader could check).

Frank McCoy noted that I lacked the Greek and therefore offered his own transliteration:
Ho de anthrwpos ethelourgou kai autokeleustou gnwmes lachwn kai prosairetikais chrwmenos ta polla tais energeiais eikotws phogon men eschen eph hois ek pronoias adikei epainon de eph hois hekwn katorthoi.
Jan Krans -- whose image appears above -- noted that I might like to have the Greek itself and thus offered the original:
ὁ δὲ ἄνθρωπος ἐθελουργοῦ καὶ αὐτοκελεύστου γνώμης λαχὼν καὶ προαιρετικαῖς χρώμενος τὰ πολλὰ ταῖς ἐνεργείαις εἰκότως ψόγον μὲν ἔσχεν ἐφ᾽ οἷς ἐκ προνοίας ἀδικεῖ, ἔπαινον δὲ ἐφ᾽ οἷς ἑκὼν κατορθοῖ. (Note ψόγον.) (Source: "The Philo Concordance Database" module in BibleWorks 7)
With the benefit of this Greek original, I was able to locate two websites with the entire Greek passage online, in case anyone should be interested in taking a look (Quod deus sit immutabilis X, 47: here and here).

Readers will recall that I was interested in what Yonge translated as "a voluntary and self-impelling intellect" and what Catan provided as "a spontaneous and self-determined will," for both translations make Philo sound as though he is talking about what contemporary philosophers call "libertarian free will."

The Greek that I was interested in is "ἐθελουργοῦ καὶ αὐτοκελεύστου γνώμης" ("ethelourgou kai autokeleustou gnwmes"). For γνώμης (gnwmes), the Liddle-Scott dictionary gives "organ by which one perceives or knows, intelligence," which is closer to Yonge's "intellect," and "will, disposition, inclination," which is the same as offered by Catan. In either case, it would seem that Philo is speaking of the so-called "rational will." The important thing for Philo is that this "intellect" or "will" is free of the bonds of necessity, which is what he means by "ἐθελουργοῦ καὶ αὐτοκελεύστου" ("ethelourgou kai autokeleustou"). For ἐθελουργοῦ (ethelourgou), Liddle-Scott gives "willing to work, indefatigable," which fits better Yonge's "voluntary" than Catan's "spontaneous." For αὐτοκελεύστου (autokeleustou), Liddle-Scott gives "self-bidden, i. e. unbidden," which fits both Yonge's "self-impelling" and Catan's "self-determined."

Thus, one might also offer for "ἐθελουργοῦ καὶ αὐτοκελεύστου γνώμης" ("ethelourgou kai autokeleustou gnwmes") the translation "a voluntary and self-impelling will," the implication being that this will is not rigidly bound by causality but is freely informed by reason.

And I am now out of time for today.

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