Translated by Stephen MacKenna and B. S. Page.
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To establish this will help to show whether we are to ascribe freedom to the gods and still more to God, or to refuse it, or again, while asserting it, to question still, in regard both to the higher and lower — the mode of its presence.
What then do we mean when we speak of freedom in ourselves and why do we question it?
My own reading is that, moving as we do amid adverse fortunes, compulsions, violent assaults of passion crushing the soul, feeling ourselves mastered by these experiences, playing slave to them, going where they lead, we have been brought by all this to doubt whether we are anything at all and dispose of ourselves in any particular.
This would indicate that we think of our free act as one which we execute of our own choice, in no servitude to chance or necessity or overmastering passion, nothing thwarting our will; the voluntary is conceived as an event amenable to will and occurring or not as our will dictates. Everything will be voluntary that is produced under no compulsion and with knowledge; our free act is what we are masters to perform.
Differing conceptually, the two conditions will often coincide but sometimes will clash. Thus a man would be master to kill, but the act will not be voluntary if in the victim he had failed to recognise his own father. Perhaps however that ignorance is not compatible with real freedom: for the knowledge necessary to a voluntary act cannot be limited to certain particulars but must cover the entire field. Why, for example, should killing be involuntary in the failure to recognise a father and not so in the failure to recognise the wickedness of murder? If because the killer ought to have learned, still ignorance of the duty of learning and the cause of that ignorance remain alike involuntary.
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