Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Philosophy



First Advisor

Donald J. Zeyl


For much of his life, Saint Augustine was preoccupied with concerns related to the freedom of the will. If one traces his view of the human will throughout his life, one notices a significant development. In his early writings against the Manichaeans he maintained that the origin of evil can be traced to evil choice. At the very end of his life he came to defend the position that the human will did not have the ability to turn to God apart from divine intervention.

In this study I demonstrate that Augustine’s view of the freedom of the human will underwent a significant development during the first decade after his conversion to Christianity (386-397). To demonstrate this, I outline his position as it is found in his works during three periods within this decade. The first period (386-391), before his ordination, is the period in which he held that the human will has the freedom of indifference. In other words, it is possible for an individual to turn to God or to refuse to turn regardless of divine intervention. The second period (391-396), after his ordination and before his episcopacy, is the period in which, although still holding to the freedom of indifference, Augustine recognized to a much greater degree the struggle in the human will. The third period is his early years as bishop (396-400). During this time, Augustine held that it is impossible for an individual to turn to God without divine intervention and it is impossible to refuse to turn, if such intervention was granted.

Finally, I briefly sketch three possible influences on this development. First, I show that it was Augustine’s study of the scriptures which was, probably, the principal influence. Next, I discuss how his own moral and spiritual struggle may have helped him realize the difficulty of making right moral choices. The third possible influence was his attempt at reforming the moral and spiritual lives of those in his congregation. These three factors may have helped Augustine recognize that it is only with the aid of divine intervention that an individual can turn to God.



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