Aquinas on the twelve elements of the free act
[Thomas Aquinas] sees the structure of the free act as composed of twelve distinct moments, of which elective choice is only one. Six of these moments pertain to knowledge, while six qualify the activity of the will.
Let us say that the rural Georgian in me is cast into a fit of nostalgia by reading David Yeago’s account of his childhood in Virginia. I formulate the sane plan to relocate from Manhattan to somewhere in the Appalachians. Therein my will is moved first by the love of a particular good perceived and desired. The judgment that this particular good should be worthy of possession moves me to form an intention to seek it out. After prudent reflection on how to go about accomplishing this goal, I consent inwardly to a formulated plan. Freedom takes on a definite shape, as it were, in the act of choice. I elect one path rather than another (Appalachia vs. Manhattan; travel by train rather than by car). I then command myself to act (the intellectual engagement of what Aquinas calls the imperium, and I cast myself into action as I board the train headed south.
The pursuit of the good ends (perhaps standing on the front porch of a mountain home in rural Virginia) in the apprehension that I have come to possess the good. Therein I attain to the final end of the activity of freedom: delight in the possession of that which is loved. We move from desire, through intention, consent, choice, and engagement, to happiness and joy.
Thomas Joseph White, O.P., “Love’s Greater Freedom,” First Things 224.