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Conditions Affecting/ Modifiers of the

MoraIity of Human Act

1. Ignorance
2. Fear
3. Concupiscence
4. VioIence
5. Habit
6. Temperament
1) Ignorance
- lack of knowledge in a person who is capable of knowing
- in some cases, we are responsible for knowledge, in
other cases we are not
1.1 Ignorance of the Iaw
- Iack of knowIedge that a particuIar Iaw exists
Example. When a driver does not know that there
is an 80-kilometer-per-hour speed limit for a
particular road.
1.2 Ignorance of the fact
- Iack of reaIization that
one is vioIating a Iaw
Example. driver knows that
there is an 80-kilometer-per-
hour speed limit but does not
realize that he is traveling at 100.
1.3. VincibIe ignorance
- that which can and should be dispelled.
t implies culpable negligence; the subject
could know and ought to know.
a) simpIe vincibIe ignorance
- present when one makes some, but
not sufficient, effort to dispel his ignorance
Suppose a nurse is unsure of dosage. She refers to the doctor's order
sheet and finds that she is unable to read his handwriting. She knows that
the doctor is at his office but does not bother to call him. As she
administers the medication, guessing at the dosage, she is guilty of simple
vincible ignorance.
b) crass vincibIe ignorance
- that which results
from mere lack of effort
Let us suppose that a
moral problem arises
from an operating
supervisor. On the shelf
over her desk is a good
medical ethics book with
an excellent index that
could quickly solve the
problem. However, she
does not bother. She is
in crass vincible
c) affected vincibIe ignorance
- that which is deIiberateIy
fostered in order to avoid any
obIigation that knowIedge might bring
to Iight.
Let us imagine a nurse who accepts
employment with a doctor who frequently
practices artificial insemination. She may suspect
that this is immoral or something which is contrary
to the teaching of her Church but carefully avoids
inquiring or even discussing the matter with
anybody, lest she discover that she is cooperating
in immorality and be obliged to leave her well-
paying job.
She is guilty of affected vincible ignorance.
t is affected because she wants to be ignorant,
and it is vincible because she could dispel the
ignorant easily.
1.4 InvincibIe ignorance
- that which cannot be dispelled. This situation
may exist either because the individual is unable
to secure adequate information, even after reasonable
effort, or because he simply does not know that there is a
problem. n other words, "he is ignorant of his
The person cannot be expected to take steps to
enlighten himself because he is unaware that he is in need
of any enlightenment.
For example, a certain nurses' aid customarily tells
lies by way of making excuses for minor faults and feels
that, since they harm no one, they are in no way sinful.
She is ignorant of that fact that she is in need of
Vincible ignorance
does not eliminate
moral responsibility
but lessens it.
MoraI PrincipIes
2) Fear
W it is one of the emotions.
W agitation or disturbance of mind
resuIting from some present or
imminent danger.
2.1 Light fear - fear in which
the eviI threatening is either
present-but-sIight or grave-but-
A man fears that he may die of cancer in his life, but his
fear is light because the grave danger is very remote.
An elderly lady experiences
fear when she hears someone
passing her door at night, but
her fear is only slight because
she knows it is probably her
neighbor arriving home at usual.
This is what is meant by a
present-but slight threatening
W intrinsic grave fear
- is that agitation of the mind which
arises because of a disposition within
one's mind or body. The fear of cancer
is intrinsic.
W extrinsic grave fear
- is that agitation of the mind which
arises from something outside oneself.
rave Fear
- is that which is present when the
evil threatening is considered as
Free extrinsic fear may be justly caused, such as a
nurse's fear of being dismissed if she does not cooperate in an
immoral act.
a) Necessary extrinsic
fear arises because of some
external physical law of
nature, such as fear when a
house is on fire.
b) Free extrinsic fear
arises from the free will of
some other person, such as
fear of a robber in a house.
MoraI PrincipIe:
Fear diminishes the voIuntary nature
of the act.
$ome considerations:
1) Some acts are done because of fear. The
act would not have been done had fear not been
present. Some acts, on the other hand, are done
with fear present but would have been done anyway.
Any acts that are done, and would have been done,
whether fear was present or not are clearly voluntary,
and if they are wrong, the person is morally
2) A sinful act done because of fear is
somewhat less free and therefore less sinful than act
done not under the influence of fear.
3) Concupiscence
W is the rebellion of the passions
against reason
Wrevolt of the sense faculties of
man against the dominion of his
higher faculty of reason
W the tendency of human nature
toward evil.
n evil action performed in the heat of passion is different,
perhaps quite different from an evil action that is
3.1 Antecedent concupiscence -
the sort which precedes an act of the
will and is not willfully stimulated,
such as sudden anger.
3.2 Consequent concupiscence
that which is stimulated by the will,
such as anger deliberately fostered.
MoraI PrincipIes:
t is obvious that certain emotions, such as anger,
discouragement, or grief, can so influence a person's state
of mind that the use of reason and free will is lessened.
Antecedent concupiscence lessens the
voluntary nature of human acts and lessens the
degree of moral responsibility accordingly.
onsequent concupiscence does not lessen
moral responsibility; rather a person acting with
consequent concupiscence is completely
4) VioIence
W external force applied by
someone on another in order to
compel him to perform an action
against his will.
W in cases where the victim gives
complete resistance, the
violence is classified as perfect
W however, if the victim offers
insufficient resistance, the
violence is classified as
imperfect violence.
4.1 Perfect VioIence
physically perfect violence
in which all possible forms
of resisting is utilized
f a woman walking along a
dark street at night is attacked,
and she attempts to fight off the
attackers with all the physical
powers at her command, she has
been the victim of physically
perfect violence.
moraIIy perfect vioIence
is that in which all powers
of resistance should be used
but not employed for a good
man being robbed attempts
to fight the robber but soon
realizes that further resistance
will probably result in his
4.2 Imperfect VioIence - is that
in which some resistance is
shown but not as much as
shouId be.
stenographer who is working
after hours in an almost empty
building is approached by the
department head. The man,
suddenly filled with lustful intentions,
makes certain rough and violent
advances. The young woman for a
moment puts up some resistance and
feels that additional resistance might
terminate the incident. However, she
quickly ceases resistance and gives
in to the man. The stenographer is
the victim of imperfect violence.
a) Regarding perfect violence,
the moral principle is this: that which
is done from perfect violence is
entirely involuntary, and so in such
cases there is no moral responsibility.
f an individual is a victim in the
absolute sense of the word, no
sensible person will condemn him. f
the victim makes a judgment that
resistance is utterly useless, he need
not resist. There is no obligation to do
what is useless.
MoraI PrincipIes Concerning VioIence
b) Regarding
imperfect violence:
that which is done
under the influence
of imperfect
violence is less
voluntary, and so
the moral
responsibility is
lessened but not
taken away
5) Other Factors Affecting
VoIuntary Nature of Human
5.1 Habit
- an inclination to perform some
particular action, acquired by
repetition and characterized by
decreased power of resistance and
an increased facility of performance.
- "a stable quality superadded to a
faculty positively inclining a person
to act in a certain way.
- often referred to as "second
Habit does not destroy
the voIuntary nature of
our acts. A person is at
Ieast in some way
responsibIe for acts done
from habit as Iong as the
habit is consciousIy
aIIowed to endure.
MoraI PrincipIes Concerning Habit
n performing an
act through habit,
that particular act
may not be
completely voluntary
in itself, but it is at
least voluntary in the
sense that the habit
was freely formed by
the repetition of
several previous
5.2 Temperament
- disposition
- is the sumtotaI of those
quaIities which mark an
- both heredity and
environment pIay a part in
forming a person's
PsychoIogists Iist four major
temperaments and their
a) $anguine - pleasing, agreeable, not a
good leader because not very stable.
b) ChoIeric - domineering, strong-willed,
good leader
c) MeIanchoIic pessimistic, brooding,
usually scrupulous, despairs easily.
d) PhIegmatic - easy going, lacking
initiative, trustworthy
MoraI PrincipIes
A person's temperament
can affect his will to the
extent of somewhat
lessening the completely
voluntary nature of his
Cautions Regarding MoraI Judgment
) Placing a judgment upon the
objective morality of a human act
in the concrete involves a
consideration of all the conditions
which affect morality: the nature of
the act itself, the purpose of the
agent, the circumstances,
ignorance, fear, concupiscence,
violence, habit, and even
) Everyone has a
conscience but everyone also
has a duty of enlightening his
3) A particular caution must
be given regarding the judging
of one's own case.
n this regard, great wisdom is
expressed in the old saying, "nemo
judex in propia causa no one is a
judge in his own case. When an
important personal moral problem
presents itself, it is time to seek
competent advice.