The Morality of Human Act
Human Acts are different from Acts of man. We cannot talk about goodness and badness of an act if we are dealing with acts of man. Only with human acts can we determined whether an act is moral or immoral. Acts of man are: acts that happen “naturally” acts done without self-awareness without deliberation, reflection, consent Instinctive, spontaneous acts that human beings share with other animals Human Acts acts with conscious knowledge acts that are done freely acts done with consent Human acts are those that are freely chosen in consequence of a judgment of conscience.
Human acts are actions that proceed from insight into the nature and purpose of one’s doing from the consent of the will (Peschke) They are either good or evil. Essential Attributes of Human Acts: Intellect, free will, and voluntariness or consent The act must be deliberate; with consciousness and knowledge (intellect) The act must be performed in freedom (free will) The act must be done voluntarily (Consent) III.
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MODIFIERS OF HUMAN ACTS Modifiers are factors or conditions that affect human acts in the essential qualities of knowledge, freedom and voluntariness.
Lack of knowledge or impairment of intellect may affect human act An internal condition or external agent or situation may affect the freedom of the person doing the act An internal condition or external agent or situation may affect the voluntariness or consent of the person doing the act Some acts wherein the doer may not be morally accountable Acts of persons asleep or under hypnosis. Reflex actions where the will has no time to intervene. Acts of performed under serious physical violence e. g. a hostage obliged to do an evil action. Since the will is constrained, then it is not a moral act which could be evaluated.
Modifiers of Human Act 1. Ignorance. It is the absence of necessary knowledge which a person in a given situation performing an act ought to have. Vincible Ignorance – lack of knowledge can be remedied; one has to exert effort to get rid of his/her lack of knowledge Invincible Ignorance – one is not aware of his/her ignorance and has no means or capacity to correct or solve it. Principles Governing Ignorance A person performing an act based in invincible ignorance is doing an involuntary act and is therefore not morally responsible / liable.
Vincible ignorance does not destroy but lessens the voluntariness and corresponding accountability of the act. Acting with vincible ignorance is imprudent. Responsibility depends on: effort to obtain information, gravity of the matter, and the obligation of the concerned person. Pretended ignorance does not excuse a person from her/his bad actions. On the contrary, it increases his/her malice. 2. Passion or Concupiscence It is a strong feeling or emotion; bodily tendencies as experienced and expressed in fear, love, hatred, despair, horror, sadness, anger, grief, etc. (eg.
Intense anger, jealousy, joy) It Includes both positive and negative emotions and is tending either towards desirable or undesirable /harmful things. (eg. An intense anger may lead the person to kill another) 2 Kinds of Passion Antecedent Passion those that precede the act, arousing and predisposing the person to do the act. (eg. an extremely angry wife immediately and “unknowingly” shot her husband upon seeing him on bed with another man) Principle Governing Antecedent Passion: And antecedent passion does not always destroys voluntariness but diminishes accountability of the resultant act.
It weakens the person’s will power without completely obstructing freedom. Consequent Passion Consequent Passions are direct results of the will which consents to them instead of controlling them (eg. a jealous boyfriend allowed his feeling of anger to intensify for a week leading him to box a friend in public) Principle Governing Consequent Passion: A consequent does lessen but may even increase accountability because the person allows self to be completely controlled by passion 3. Fear It is the disturbance of the mind of a person who is confronted with impending danger or harm.
A distinction should be made act between an act done with fear from an act done because of fear. Only in acts done because of fear can fear be considered as a modifier of human act. Acts done with fear- (eg. Even if Felix is afraid to use a gun and it was his first time to shoot a person, he shot the intruder of their house and foiled the robbery attempt. ) Acts done out of fear – (eg. With the robber poking a gun on him, Felix was forced to give all the cash collections in exchange for the life of his wife and child) Principles governing fear:
Acts done with fear are voluntary; the person acts in spite of fear and is thus in control of his/her behavior; the person is morally responsible. Acts done because of fear are involuntary. The person is not morally accountable for his/her action. 4. Violence Violence is any physical force exerted on a person by another free agent for the purpose of compelling that person to act against his/her will; any act where great and brutal force is inflicted, eg. torture, mutilation, etc. Action resulting from violence is involuntary while the person’s will remains defiant against the aggressor; no consent even if compelled.
Principles Governing Violence Action resulting from violence is involuntary while one’s will remains defiant against the aggressor; no consent even if compelled One should actively resist if it is possible. But if not, withholding consent is enough to save the person’s moral integrity. 5. Habit Habit is a constant and easy way of doing things acquired by the repetition of the same act; a lasting readiness and facility, born of frequently repeating acts, for acting in the same manner.
Principles Governing Habit A person is morally accountable of his/her action if he/she allows a habit to determine his/her conduct. A deliberately admitted habit does not lessen voluntariness ; the person is still morally responsible for the act because it implies approval of all the consequences which he/she is aware of. IV. SPECIFIC DETERMINANTS OF THE MORALITY OF HUMAN ACTS 1. The Act Itself or the Object of the Act The action of the person The act which the will chooses to perform – that which is deliberately willed by the will – the object of the will It answers the question “WHAT? ”
Acts can be in themselves, by their very nature, good or bad or indifferent The moral object can either be good, bad or indifferent praying – good stealing- bad eating- indifferent 2. The Motive or Intention The purpose or goal behind the act Asks the question: Why? It modifies the moral worth of the act 4 Principles to consider under motive: an indifferent act can become morally good or evil upon the intention of the person doing the act. – eg. eating a muffin (indifferent) with a poison to commit suicide (intention) – this makes the eating the muffin evil An objectively good act becomes evil due to an evil or wrong intention.
Mark prays (good act) that his rival classmate will get low grades (intention) – praying becomes an evil act A morally good act can receive added goodness with a noble or good intention. eg Kim prays (act) that all children sick with dengue will be saved from death (intention). the act of praying becomes more good. An intrinsically evil act can never be morally good even if it is done with good intention. eg. Jimmy stole 500 pesos (act) from her dad’s purse so he can give it to a classmate who needs money for tuition(intention). Stealing remains evil even if Jimmy has a good intention. 3. The Circumstance
The circumstances are those factors or conditions outside of the act that contribute to increase or diminish the goodness or evil of an action. A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, intention and circumstances. Four (4) types of circumstance affecting morality Mitigating or Extenuating Circumstance A circumstance that diminishes the degree of moral good in the act. eg. A young man shoots his father after years of being beaten, belittled, sworn at and treated without love Aggravating Circumstance A circumstance that increases the degree of moral good or evil in the act without adding new species of moral good or bad.
A murderer carried out at night by a killer with a lot of criminal records using powerful weapon Justifying Circumstance A circumstance that shows adequate reason for some acts done. eg. An accused killing a superior aggressor in an act of self-defence Specifying Circumstance A circumstance that gives a news species of a moral good or evil. (who, where, by what means, why). eg. A criminal raping a 12 year old girl and then murdering her by hitting the head with a huge stone. Principles Governing Circumstance a) An indifferent act becomes good or evil by reason of its circumstance.
Eating lechon when the person has had a stroke and whose cholesterol level is way beyond normal b) A good act may become evil by reason of circumstance. eg. Susan still continues to pray even if the whole chapel is fast burning into ashes. c) An act may become better or worse, or may take on a new goodness or evil by reason of circumstance eg. Peter commits murder using an automatic rifle that he stole from the military camp. d) An evil act can never be made good by circumstance. eg. Maria says she opted to cheat because it was her last chance given by her Department Dean.