Historically, a term connoting the controversies of the congregatio de auxiliis (1598–1607), and which the Thomists came to accept as a term expressing the intrinsic efficacy of actual grace. The nature of this efficacy was described as a physical predetermination or as a help that predetermines physically (Historiae Congregationum de Auxiliis, 2:171B; 4:515C). Such expressions were more frequent than the expression "physical pre-motion." Doctrinally the term raises the problem of the relationship between divine causality and the free human act and requires careful precision.
Divine Causality as Predetermination. The causality of God as intelligent first cause may be described as predetermination. The priority of this causality, so that it is a "pre-" determination, is its eternity. Identical with the divine being, the divine causality does not evolve but exists all at once. Thus it is prior to all the temporal effects to which it extends, including the voluntary actions of man.
This same causality is a determination because God is an intelligent cause. This determination can be taken as equivalent to the plan of divine providence, which extends to every created reality, all the way to singular beings and the events of their individual development and thus to the concrete acts of free will. Because this plan is divine, it is infallible; there can be no conjecture, no waiting or uncertainty about God's knowledge. God's eternity is itself a reason for this infallibility. In His knowing plan the actual events of all created history, including the voluntary acts of every man, are present before the simple, unevolving gaze of the divine mind. But this infallibility also presupposes that God's plan, His intelligent causality, is effective and not a mere theoretical apprehension of possible worlds. The source of that effectiveness is the decree of the divine will—the divine choice that certain beings and certain events, including the actions of men, should in fact exist. Thus, although the actual presence of all history in God's plan is explained by His eternity, that His knowledge be knowledge of the actually existent presupposes the sure source of all actuality, the efficacy of His own will. The infallibility of God's plan cannot be based on secondary causes; these are defectible, contingent and impedible. Thus because it is a knowledge of all events (including the act of free will) in their subordination to the efficacious decrees of His will, God's plan, His determination, is infallibly certain.
All of this, however, is rejected in molinism. The Molinist scientia media is a knowledge anterior to any decree of the divine will. Its certainty lies in its being an eternal comprehension of all the free acts to which the human will might determine itself with the aid of a merely simultaneous concurrence (Concordia, 14.13.52). The bases for this certitude are variously assigned, but the point of opposition to St. Thomas Aquinas's teaching is that the scientia media is an infallible knowledge of the existent anterior to the decrees of God's will (see Summa theologiae 1a, 14.5, 8, 13). The divine plan actually operative, for the Molinists, is a scientia libera. As eternal, this could be called predetermination, but the term is not apt because the decrees underlying it follow upon the perception in the scientia media of the autonomous determination of the free creature.
Physical Premotion as Predetermination. The eternal and infallible efficacy of divine causality is the basis for referring to physical premotion as predetermination. Physical premotion properly designates the effect of God's causality in every created agent, an effect by which the agent actually is conjoined to its own action. As such, physical premotion may well be described as predetermined. This serves to emphasize its nature as an effect of God's causality, belonging to His government, the execution of the divine plan in time. Because premotion is from God, it bears the marks of its origin, corresponding to the infallible efficacy by which God as first cause determines all actual existents. Thus premotion is not indifferent; it is not an indefinite energy variously determinable by created agents, but is itself predetermined and causative according to the universally extensive causality of God, which reaches to the singular existent, even to the free act.
Again, premotion may be designated as predetermining. This simply emphasizes its being a causal influence by which the created agent causes in subordination to God, the first cause. As such, it is prior to the actual effect, the action itself, by a causal antecedence. Precisely as a divinely causal influence, it is determining and not indeterminate. This is again to say that it extends to each concrete act to be exercised.
Thus understood, premotion is contrasted with the merely simultaneous concurrence espoused by Molinists. Such concurrence is proposed as a divine help conferred on the action of free will, and not on the faculty itself; thus both the divine help and the will-act become coordinated causes of free choice. The divine help, in this explanation, is in itself indeterminate; by its own choice, the human will concretizes and diversifies the divine help so that it becomes effective of a particular act.
But what is left unexplained is the will's passage to actual choice from a prior state of potency. In the final analysis, premotion is invoked simply because of this suspension of the will faculty. The divine help must be truly causal because the human will is dependent; the divine help cannot be indifferent and determinable, simply because it is primarily causative; the human will is so subordinated to divine help that without such help it could not exercise its choice at all. Thus the will could not determine the divine help to this or that choice; rather it is the divine help that is itself determined, namely, the help the will needs precisely to exercise this concrete act of choice, to pass from potentiality to actual choice. It was, in fact, because a merely simultaneous concurrence is an indifferent divine help that would make the divine plan uncertain, fallible, determinable that scientia media had to be invented. The Thomist position, as opposed to the Molinist, rests the certainty of God's plan on the efficacy of His decrees, to which physical premotion as predetermination corresponds.
Predetermination and Freedom of Choice. No attempt to see the compatibility of God's primacy as cause with the freedom of the will's choices can rid itself of obscurity. But certain strands of the problem can be separated. Physical premotion as it relates to its source, divine causality, is predetermined; the infallibility of the divine plan and its efficacy require this. As it relates to the free choices of the will, premotion is predetermining, in the sense of being causal with regard to each particular free choice. This causality takes place in the movement by which the will passes from potentiality to the actual exercise of its act. But freedom itself exists in the actual exercise of choice. This means that both as to what is chosen and as to the choosing itself the will has dominance; not only is it not coerced, but its basic orientation toward man's fulfillment is not fully evoked. The object and act of willing do not necessitate the will. As it wills, the will fully achieves its choice both of object and of action. From the point of view of conjoining the will to actual choice, then, physical premotion no more takes away freedom than does the will faculty itself in actually choosing its own act.
Yet the ultimate problem remains: predetermination implies the incompatibility of a physical premotion conferred and the will not placing the corresponding act. The nonpositing of this choice is incompatible with the infallibility and efficacy of the divine causality itself. The Molinist position escapes this problem by leaving the divine assistance indifferent and by relying on the scientia media. St. thomas aquinas faces this natural mystery by pointing to the unique effectiveness of God's causality that reaches each effect according to the connatural mode of being and acting that is proper to the secondary cause (Summa theologiae 1a, 19.6; 22.4 ad 1, ad 2, ad 3; C. gent. 3.148; De ver. 24.1 ad 3). Thus, for him, physical premotion is not predetermining in the sense of necessarily coercing the will. All the dynamism that leads up to the point of free choice takes place connaturally. The apprehension of this choice as desirable has gone on because of its conformity with the abiding dispositions of the will. The choice itself is made when, with the indispensable help of premotion, the will actually causes its own act. That the premotion, while retaining its own infallibility, does not coerce the will, rests upon God's acting on the will according to its proper nature, dispositions and mode of acting. The will is moved to make the free choice, so to exercise its freedom.
See Also: premotion, physical; bÁÑez and baÑezianism; molinism; causality, divine.
Bibliography: j. h. serry, Historiae Congregationum de Auxiliis (5 v., 2d ed. Venice 1740) 2:171B; 4:515C. l. molina, Concordia, 14.13.52.
[t. c. o'brien]