Impediments to Human Action

In addition to above three elements, there are several other factors that render actions non-human and therefore not subject to scrutiny in ethics. Some of which St. Thomas Aquinas addressed are as follows;

  • Ignorance – It is the absence of knowledge in a subject capable of having knowledge or lack of knowledge in a subject who should have knowledge. An animal cannot be called ignorant because of its inability to have human knowledge but a civil servant can be ignorant if he lacks knowledge of Civil Service (Code of Conduct).
  • Passion – Passions are powerful emotions springing from a pretence of something perceived as good or evil. If the passions that precede an action are not deliberately aroused, they increases the will to act but simultaneously diminish the free will. The action is still a human action to the extent that free will can be measured.

When an actor deliberately arouses a passion before acting, it is obvious that the voluntary nature of the action also increases. For instance, a person deliberately causing herself to become enraged to kill another person. Herein, killing is voluntary in cause and the actor is guilty of homicide to the extent that he foresaw the killing.

  • Fear – It is an emotional reaction arising from an impending danger. It can be inflicted justly or unjustly—justly when inflicted by a person with the right to inflict it such as when a judge acts or unjustly when inflicted by a person without authority. If fear is strong enough to destroy a person’s freedom of choice then it destroys the voluntariness of an action.
  • Violence – It is an external physical force exerted on a person. When a person offers all the resistance he can, actions done in these circumstances are unfree and therefore not human actions.
  • Habit – Habit is a quality acquired through frequent repetition. Good habits are virtues and bad habits are vices. When a person acquires a habit – shows voluntariness at work. But some habits, such as smoking, may become less voluntary because of a lack of advertence to a particular action. However, if a person acquiring a habit foresees the results then it does not lessen the voluntariness of an action.
  • Temperament – It is the sum of a person’s natural propensities as opposed to character which is the collection of a person’s acquired propensities, such as habits. Temperament and character may sometimes lessen the voluntariness of actions but never destroy it.

The presence of these elements entirely changes the character of an action i.e. it no more remains a Human Action (Becomes Action of/by Human) thus, these actions are beyond the scope of ethical examination or deciding the morality of an action. Now, let’s examine the morality of Human action;