Determinants Of (Morality In Human Action)

There are three parts to every action that should be examined to decide whether the action concurs with human nature or not. These are as follows;

Object of a Human Action –

The object of any action is its essence which makes an action – what it is. That object can be something good, bad or indifferent. Lying and telling the truth are examples of two actions that are distinguished from each other according to moral criteria. The following principles apply to the object of every action.

    • An action whose object is bad – It will remain bad and nothing can improve it, neither circumstances, nor purpose, nor intention. A lie, remains a lie despite the purpose or circumstance involved.
    • An action that is good – It may become bad because of circumstances or purpose. For example, telling the truth is a good act but to destroy another person’s good name or character makes it a morally bad act because of the speaker’s purpose or intention.
    • An action that is indifferent – It may become good or bad because of circumstances or purpose. Walking may be an indifferent act but walking into a store to steal becomes a morally evil action because of the purpose.

Circumstances of a Human Action –

Circumstances refers to such things, as the act being done at a particular time, in a particular place, by a particular agent, in a particular manner. Moral circumstances are the criteria for assessing the goodness or badness of a human action. Moral circumstances may increase the goodness or badness of a human action. To strike another person in self-defence is one thing and to strike another without any provocation or justification is another matter.

    • Aggravating moral circumstances – It increases the goodness or badness of an action. For example, stealing from a homeless person is an aggravating circumstance that increases the badness of an already bad act (stealing).
    • Extenuating moral circumstances – It decreases the amount of badness of an action. For example, stealing from Mukesh Ambani is not as bad as stealing from a homeless person, but it is still an evil act.
    • Specifying moral circumstances – It makes an indifferent act become good or bad. For example, withdrawing money from ATM is an indifferent act – If the money belongs to the withdrawer, the act is all right but if the money belongs to another person, it is an evil act.

End or Purpose of a Human Action –

It refers to the purpose the person had in mind while doing the act. Certain principles can be deduced based on the purpose in mind when performing the act.

    • An action that is indifferent because of its object may become good or bad because of the purpose. For example, jogging in itself is an indifferent act. When done to maintain good health, it becomes a good act but when done to arrive at a place where the person commits theft, it becomes an immoral action.
    • An action that is good because of its object may become better or less good or even bad because of the purpose. For example, to give a donation to a homeless person is a good action bur being given just to get rid of the person, is still a good action but not as good as in the first case. If donation intends to lure the homeless person into doing something immoral for you, the donation becomes an immoral act.
    • An action that is evil by its object may become more wrong or perhaps less wrong but never good by its purpose. For instance, telling a lie is morally wrong but telling a lie to defame another person is more wrong. Similarly, telling a lie “to get out of trouble” is still lying and still wrong, but less wrong because of the purpose (e.g. spies caught by foreign agency).

Analysing the morality of the human act is a complex task since it is affected by so many conditions which are within and without. Most of the moralists agree that to judge the goodness or badness of any particular human act, these three elements must be weighed from which every act derives its morality. According to the moralists, a human act is said to be morally good when it is good in its object, circumstances and also in the intention. If even one of these determinants is contrary to each other, the action will be bad, at least in part.