Terms in this set (14)
What are human actions?
(1)Actions of a human agent; the human agent preconceives ends (with intellect) and freely directs him or herself to these ends through will; (2) Actions over which human agents have mastery and for which they bear responsibility
What are some examples of actions related to human beings that are not "human actions" in the technical sense described above?
Reflex actions; uncontrollable addictive behavior; behavior associated with severe mental illness, automatic corporeal functions (e.g. heartbeat)]
What are some examples of human actions?
buying something in the store, thinking over a problem, hitting a baseball, feeding a hungry family, stealing something, etc. Anything a human being can do by preconceiving an end and freely willing to achieve this end is a human action
Why are human actions important?
Human actions define a person in the most important way. What people do with their free human actions shapes their lives and characters. Given a situation where the agents have sufficient knowledge and freedom, what makes Mother Teresa admirable and a Nazi prison camp doctor a scoundrel is that both have a life of free choices which form their character in a particular way. One isn't born a saint or a scoundrel. We don't judge people's character by things beyond their control, such as the growth of their hair or a disease they contract, we judge them by how well or badly they use the intelligent and free actions under their control
What is an accident?
a property which can come and go even though the substance to which it is related remains the same. For example, a substance such as a goat can be heavy or light, but it is still a goat
What are Aristotle's nine accidents and examples?
quantity (e.g. large or small), quality (e.g. color: black or white), relation (child or mother), where (the yard or living room), when (10:00 am or 6:00 pm), habitus (wearing a bell or a hat), setus (standing or sitting), action (kicking or hitting) or passion (being kicked or hit).
Which of these accidents is pertinent to our topic?
"Action". Note that an action is not a substance, but is related to a substance: the substance (agent) is acting. In the case of a human action, the substance is the human agent. Because an action is not a substance, it must be defined differently than a substance
What are the main components for defining human actions?
Agent (the one performing the action); the object (what the agent is doing); end (why the agent is pursuing this object).
What are as if "accidents" for a human action?
What is a circumstance?
a quality or property of a human action
What are the circumstances which Aquinas identifies for human action, and what is their origin?
Thomas conflates previously existing lists of circumstances from Aristotle and Cicero. Aquinas lists eight: who, about what, why, what, how, by what aids, place, and time
Why are the agent (here "who"), the object (here, "about what"), and the end (here "why") listed as circumstances if they can be essential to defining an action?
Even when something is essential for defining an action, aspects of that thing can be circumstantial. For example, it is essential for stealing that the agent be taking "someone else's thing", but that the thing taken is red or green in color doesn't usually make a difference in a moral evaluation
What are examples of these eight circumstances?
We will use the action of "striking someone" as an example: (1) who: the "dignity" or "lack of dignity" in the agent who is striking someone; (2) about what: "father" or a "stranger" as two possible victims of the assailant's attack; (3) why: the act is motivated by revenge for either "a major offense" or "a minor offense"; (4) what: "injury" or "death" as two possible outcomes or effects of striking; (5) how: "lightly" or "forcefully" as possible ways of striking; (6) by what aids: a "club" or a "candle stick" as weapons; (7) place: street or dining room; (8) time: 3:00 am or 5:00 pm.
Can circumstances make a difference in moral evaluation?
Sometimes they can. One way is by ameliorating or exacerbating the rightness or wrongness of an action. For example, if someone steals sugar, the circumstance "how much" makes a difference. Did the agent steal a spoonful of sugar for his coffee or a whole truckload of sugar? (Note that this circumstance increases one of the very factors of the action which causes it to violate justice.) An ameliorating circumstance might be is it was discovered that a conductor who fell asleep operating a train was forced to work a double shift by his supervisors against the conductor's better judgment
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