Human Acts

Father Geiermann discusses the conditions that make us responsible for our actions and the conditions that impede responsibility:

“A person is responsible for his actions to the extent that he has control or dominion over them. To exercise this dominion two things are requisite: (1) that he be conscious of the nature and effects of his actions; (2) that he perform them of his own free will. These conditions elevate an act above the mechanical and make it human, and as such deserving of reward or punishment.”

“Man may be impeded and even prevented from exercising dominion over an action in five ways: (1) by a lack of knowledge, through ignorance, inadvertence, or misconception, of the nature and effects of an action; (2) by a prior excitement of his passions; (3) or by a nervousness that momentarily interferes with the exercise of his reason and free will; (4) by physical violence, brought to bear on him contrary to his own will; (5) by fear induced either from within or from without, that paralyzes his reason and will for the time being.”

Next, Father Geiermann explains how one determines whether an action is praiseworthy or blameworthy. Two factors determine this: the intrinsic nature of the act and the particular circumstances surrounding the carrying out of the act. He explains:

“The nature and the circumstances of an action are the source of its morality. By its nature is meant the intrinsic tendency of an action; by its circumstances those qualities of person, time, place, thing, means, method, and especially end, or intention, that clothe the act in concrete form.”

“In the concrete every human act is either morally good or bad. The essential morality of an act flows from its nature or object; its accidental morality from the circumstances.”

Quotations from Peter Geiermann, The Narrow Way (New York: Benziger, 1914).

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