Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/144

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

evidently the act proper to man as a rational agent. For it is man who is its determining cause; whereas his necessary actions are unavoidably determined by his nature and environment. He is the master of the former, while the latter are not under his dominion and cannot be withheld by him. These, therefore, are properly styled acts of man, because elicited, but not determined, by him. The human act admits of increment and decrement. Its voluntariness can be diminished or increased. Ignorance, as far as it goes, renders an act involuntary, since what is unknown cannot be willed; passions intensify the inclination of the will, and thus increase voluntariness, but lessen deliberation and consequently also freedom.

Properties.—Human acts are imputable to man so as to involve his responsibility, for the very reason that he puts them forth deliberatively and with self-determination. They are, moreover, not subject to physical laws which necessitate the agent, but to a law which lays the will under obligation without interfering with his freedom of choice. Besides, they are moral. For a moral act is one that is freely elicited with the knowledge of its conformity with or difformity from, the law of practical reason proximately and the law of God ultimately. But whenever an act is elicited with full deliberation, its relationship to the law of reason is adverted to. Hence human acts are either morally good or morally bad, and their goodness or badness is imputed to man. And as, in consequence, they are worthy of praise or blame, so man, who elicits them, is regarded as virtuous or wicked, innocent or guilty, deserving of reward or punishment. Upon the freedom of the human act, therefore, rest imputability and morality, man's moral character, his ability to pursue his ultimate end not of necessity and compulsion, but of his own will and choice; in a word, his entire dignity and pre-eminence in this visible universe.

Recent Views.—Recent philosophic speculation discards free will conceived as capability of self-determination. The main reason advanced against it is its apparent incompatibility with the law of causation. Instead of indeterminism, determinism is now most widely accepted. According to the latter, every act of the will is of necessity determined by the character of the agent and the motives which render the action desirable. Character, consisting of individual dispositions and habits, is either inherited from ancestors or acquired by past activity; motives arise from the pleasurableness or unpleasurableness of the action and its object, or from the external environment. Many determinists drop freedom, imputability, and responsibility, as inconsistent with their theory. To them, therefore, the human act cannot be anything else than the voluntary act. But there are other determinists who still admit the freedom of will. In their opinion a free action is that which "flows from the universe of the character of the agent." And as "character is the constitution of Self as a whole", they define freedom as "the control proceeding from the Self as a whole, and determining the Self as a whole." We find freedom also defined as a state in which man wills only in conformity with his true, unchanged) and untrammelled personality. In like manner Kant, though in his "Critique of Pure Reason" he advocates determinism, nevertheless in his "Fundamental Metaphysics of Morals" admits the freedom of the will, conceiving it as independence of external causes. The will, he maintains, is a causality proper to rational beings, and freedom is its endowment enabling it to act without being determined from without, just as natural necessity is the need proper to irrational creatures of being determined to action by external influence. He adds, however, in explanation, that the will must act according to unchangeable laws, as else it would be an absurdity. Free acts thus characterised are termed human by these determinists, because they proceed from man's reason and personality. But plainly they are not human in the scholastic acceptation, nor in the full and proper sense. They are not such, because they are not under the dominion of man. True freedom, which makes man master of his actions, must be conceived as immunity from all necessitation to act. So it was understood by the scholastics. They defined it as immunity from both intrinsic and extrinsic necessitation. Not so the determinists. According to them it involves immunity from extrinsic, but not from intrinsic, necessitation. Human acts, therefore, as also imputability and responsibility, are not the same thing in the old and in the new schools.

So it comes to pass, that, while nowadays in ethics and law the very same scientific terms are employed as in former ages, they no longer have the same meaning as in the past nor the same in Catholic as in non-Catholic literature.

Maser, Psychology (4th ed., New York, 1900); Ladd, Psychology, xxvi (4th ed., New York, 1903); Mackenzie, Manual of Ethics (4th ed., New York, 1901); Suarez, Tract de Voluntario; Offner, Willensfreiheit, Zurechnung, und Verantwortung (Leipzig, 1904).

Acts, Indifferent.—A human act may be considered in the abstract (in specie) or in the concrete (in individuo). Taken in the former sense it is clear the morality of a human act will be determined by its object only, as this may be of a kind that is neither conformable to a moral norm nor contrary to it, we may have an act that can be said to be neither good nor bad, but indifferent. But can this character of indifference be predicated of the act we are discussing, considered not as an abstraction of the mind, but in the concrete, as it is exercised by the individual in particular circumstances, and for a certain end? To this question St. Bonaventure (in 2, dist. 41, a. 1, q. 3, where, however, it will be observed, the Seraphic Doctor speaks directly of merit only) answers in the affirmative, and with him Scotus (in 2, dist. 40–41, et quodl. 18), and all the Scotist school. So also Sporer (Theol. Moral., 1, III, § v); Elbel (Theol. Moral., tom. I, n. 86); Vasquez (in 1–2, disp. 52); Arriaga (De Act. Hum., disp. 21); and in our own day Archbishop Walsh (De Act. Hum., n. 588 sq.). St. Thomas (In 2, dist. 40., a. 5; De Malo, q. 2, a. 4 et 5; 1–2, q. 18, a. 9), and his commentators hold the opposite opinion. So too do Suarez (De. Bon. Et Mal., disp. ix); Billuart (diss. IV, a. 5 et 6); St. Alphonsus (L. 2, n. XLIV); Bouquillon (Theol. Moral. Fund., n. 371); Lehmkuhl (Theol. Moral., L. I, tract. I, III); and Noldin (Sum. Theol. Moral., I, 85 sq.).

It must be noted that the Thomists, no less than the Scotists, recognize as morally indifferent acts done without deliberation, such, for instance, as the stroking of one's beard or the rubbing of one's hands together, as these ordinarily take place. Admittedly indifferent, too, will those acts be in which there is but a physical deliberation, as it is called, such as is realized when, for instance, we deliberately read or write, without any thought of the moral order. The question here is of those acts only that are performed with advertence to a moral rule. Again, most of the Thomists will allow that an act would be indifferent in the case where an agent would judge it to be neither good nor bad after he had formed his conscience, according to the opinion of Scotists, to which, it must be conceded, a solid probability is attached. Finally, it must be remarked that no controversy is raised regarding the indifference of acts with reference to supernatural merit. The doctrine that all the works of infidels are evil has been formally condemned. Yet clearly, while the deeds of those without grace may be morally good, and thus in the supernatural order escape all