Ethics is concerned with human actions and morality of human behaviour that needs to be separated first. Ethics in human action is only concerned with deliberate actions not undeliberate actions or actions done out of ignorance. St. Thomas Aquinas discussed these three essential elements of human action at length in Summa Theologica which are as follows;
- Involvement of knowledge – It’s an essential requirement since we can’t will unless we first know it.
- Voluntariness – Action must proceed from will. It controls the performance of external actions—the will is the cause of our actions. For instance, if someone places a gun in my hand and pulls the trigger, it is obvious that my will does not control or cause that action and therefore the shooting is not voluntary, thus not a human action.
- Free will – Human beings have free will, that is, the capacity to act or not to act. It offers human beings to have choices.
In absence of any of the elements, the action can’t called as human action. It can illustrated as though sometimes actions are voluntary in nature but there might be absence of free will. Taking the case of marital rapes in India, It’s well known reality but dual burden of traditional marriage obligations and non-existence of legal remedies are making women to suffer. In this situation engaging in sexual intercourse (eventually turns into marital rape) though a voluntary act but in absence of free will, it can’t be called a human action.