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The Determinants of Morality

 Are so called because they are the basis for judging

whether an act is good or evil, moral or immoral. They
are the following: (1) the end of act itself,(2) the end of
the doer, and (3) the circumstances of the act.
 1. The end of the act -determines whether an act is
intrinsically or extrinsically good or evil. Any act which
is consistent with the natural tendencies of human
nature is intrinsically good. But those that are contrary
to reason are intrinsically evil, such as murder,
abortion, kidnapping, robbery, and rape. We speak of
these acts as being contrary to natural law.
 Actions which are neutral or indifferent to the norm of
morality are extrinsically good or evil. These actions
are either good or bad not on account of their nature,
but because of factors or circumstances concomitant
to them. The act of eating, for example , is an amoral
act and is neither morally good or bad. But either over-
eating or excessive dieting could be unhealthy and
therefore, morally objectionable
 Action which are intrinsically evil or prohibited at all
times actions which are extrinsically evil may e
permitted when the factors which render them evil are
removed or corrected.
 It is fact that some actions entail pain and suffering,
while some do bring pleasures to their doers. Pain or
plaesures do not define whether an act of moral or
immoral regardless whether it is a painful or
pleasurable experience
 2. The end of the doer -is the purpose or motive which the
doer wishes to accomplish by his action. Without a motive,
an act is accidental and involuntary. A good motive is
truthful, prudent, temperate, and just. It is the most
equitable for the most number of people, or in the words of
the existentialist “ the most loving of all in a given
 “The End does not justify the means” is a fundamental
moral principle. It affirms that one should not do wrong
(means) in order to attain a good purpose (end) The
motive of a person, no matter how noble, does not excuse
an act which is intrinsically evil. The desire to pass a subject
does not justify a students who for cheats in the
examination. Likewise, the need to feed a family does not
justify torture of a suspect by the police. The rule is – don’t
do wrong even if this will result in something good
 Motive and Action1: the correlation between motive
and act is defined in the following principles
 1. An evil act which is done on account of an evil
motive is grievously wrong. In others words, a bad
actions and a wrong motive make for dangerous
combination. Stealing in order to buy “shabu” means
double trouble. Don’t try it….
 2. A good action done on account of an evil motive
becomes evil itself. This mean that something nice and
sweet may turn ugly and sour because of a bad motive.
Don’t be a hypocrite!
 3. A good action done on account of a good purpose
acquires an additional merit. This means you go ahead
and do right thing. You can never go wrong on this one
 4. An indifferent act may either become good or bad
depending on the motive. This means you be careful of
what you eat or what you say.

 3. Circumtances of the act – are the historical

elements surrounding the commission of an act, such
as the status of the doer, the place the time, or the
intensity of an act. The circumstances are hinted by
the interrogative pronouns – who, what , where, with
whom, why, how, and where.
 1. “who” refers either to the doer of the act or the
recipient of the act. It has to do with the age, status,
relation, schooling, social standing, an economic
situation of those involved in an act. In this regard, we
note the following:
 (a) The moron, insane, senile and children below the
age of reason are incapable of voluntary acts and are
not morally accountable.
 (b) Educated persons have greater accountability than
those with less or without education.
 (c) Person constituted in authority have accountability
for the actions of those under them. Tis is the meaning
of “command responsibility”. Thus, parents have
command responsibility over their children who are
minors; employers, over the actuations of their
employees, and superiors, over the acts of their
subordinates. The law on sexual harassment is based
on the doctrine of command responsibility.
 (d) The legal or blood relation of people involved in
 May modify the nature of such act. For instance,
killing of a parent changes homicide parricide.
 2. “what” refers to the act itself, or the quality and
quantity of the result of such act. Robbery, for
instance, what is stolen and how much is stolen are
aggravating factors. Likewise, the numbers of victims
determines the seriousness of the murder.
 3. “where” refers to the place where the act is
committed. A crime inside a church is more
scandalous than the committed in a seclude place.
Murder in a marketplace is more heinous than that
done in a mountain trail.
 “With whom” refers to the companion or accomplices
in an act. The more people are involved in the
commission of an act, the more serious in the crime.
 5. “Why” refers to the motive of the doer, as discussed
 6. “How” refers to the manners of the act is
perpetrated. Homicide committed with much cruelty
is a heinous crime.
 7. “When” refers to the time of the act. A murder
committed when the victim when the victim is
sleeping is more offensive than the one done when the
victim is wide awake.
 Circumstance Factors :
 1. circumstance may either increase or decrease the
wrongfulness of an evil act. The killing of innocent
people in the case of terrorist exploding a bomb in
public places constitutes a serious crime against
humanity. On the other hand, killing a tyrant who has
long oppressed the assailant accepts a mitigating
factor and, therefore, is level evil. Nonetheless, the act
remains an evil act and the perpetrator of such act is
accountable and punishable.
 2. Circumstances also may either increase or
decrease the merits of a good act. Helping another at
the risk of ones life is an act of heroism. Helping
another in expectation of a reward or fee is a business
 Circumstances may except temporarily someone from
doing a required act. A debtor may not pay his debts when
he does not the money, or if paying up would cause him
great hardships.
 4. Circumstances do not prove the guilt of a person. The
presence of a person when a crime is commited does not
prove he is the criminal.

 The Morally Good Act – A morally good act is that which

sounds in all aspect- in its nature, motive, and
circumstances . In the Scriptures, the morally upright is a
just man, one who weights his actions in relation to what
the law demands, to what the circumstances would allow,
and to what fits his stature as a rational being. A morally
good action, therefore, is a just act- “makatarungan”.
 We also speak of its as “maka-tao”, or “maka-diyos” ,
indicating that such as action is fair to the other person and
in accordance with the Will of God.
 The Relevance of Laws
 Laws mandate some actions as prohibited and others
as permitted and required. We may therefore consider
laws as determinants of human behaviour. Some
people do not do what is good unless they are the
forced to ST. Thomas points out the laws are made for
those who are weak in character.
 Society adopts laws to protect its member from
themselves or from those who might want to hurt
them. By prescribing punishments for transgression,
law of encourage and compel people to act for the good
of all. Everyone should obey the law or risk being
punished. As authorities would put it – “dura lex, sed
lex” the law is harsh, but it is the law- and everyone
should obey.
 The Definition of Law
 Law according to St Thomas Aquinas, is an ordinance
of reason, promulgated for the common good by one
who has charged of society.
 Laws are “ordinance of reason” because they are the
result of serious study, deliberation, or public debate.
They are “promulgated” because they are made known
to the people who are bound to observe them. They are
“for the Common good” because the purpose of the
law is the general welfare of the people. They are
enacted “ by who are charged of society” because only
those legitimate authority to govern may pass laws.
 1. Divine positive laws are those made known to men by
God like the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) given to
Moses. We also call them moral laws because they are
concerned with moral acts Violation of these laws
constitutes a sin.
 2. Human positive Laws are those made by legitimate
human authority such as the laws enacted by the state or
the church. Human positive laws are intended to preserve
peace and order and to direct members to work towards the
common good. They may also have as their object the
moral acts. Violation of these laws constitute an illegal act.
The constitution and the civil code embody the laws of the
Phillipines Cannon Laws embodies the laws of the catholic
 3. Affirmative and Negative Laws: Both divine and
human positive law are either affirmative or negative
 Affirmatives laws are those that require the
performance of an act, like that of giving respect to
parents and that of paying taxes when due. Negatives
laws are those that prohibit the performance of an act,
like the prohibition against smoking in designated
public places.
 Moral laws are those derive from natural law. They are
in the inherent and essential tendencies of human
nature so that they are thought as being “written” in
the hearts men. They regulate thoughts and fellings.
 Moral laws are enforced by personal commitment in
the absence of the threat of corporal punishment or
sanctions. Moral laws are said to bind in conscience,
because they impose upon the person a moral
obligation to accept the law and comply with it. Moral
laws then are enforced by personal conviction rather
than by the threat of corporal punishment.
 On the other hand, human law regulate only the
external acts when these are manifested and observe.
They do not regulate thoughts and feeling so that, for
Example, a person may not be arrested for wanting to
commit murder until such time when he actually
attempts it. Human laws do not bind in conscience
and are purely penal, that is, they are enforced by
police powers and justice is served when the culprit
suffers the punishment.
 A human law; in order to be accepted as just, must
have the following properties:
1. A human law must conform with divine laws This is
because all legitimate authority comes from God.
Therefore, no human authority may contradict Gods
will manifested in the natural law or divine positive
2. A human law must promote the common good. The
common Good is the communal benefit, Material
and spiritual, necessary for the promotion of human
life. The common Good consist in economic
prosperity, peace and order, health, education, and
moral instruction of the members of the society.
 3. A human law must not discriminate against certain
individuals or groups. It must apply proportionately to
all members of society so that the needs of each one
are served.
 4. A human law must be practicable. A law which
imposes undue hardships and sacrifices in its
compliance is not just.
 5. A human law must be flexible. It must provide limits
and define the basis for exceptions. Laws arre for the
benefits of man, not for his destruction.
 6. A law must be amendable. The conditions and
Reasons for a law do change. Therefore, a law should
be amendable and changeable.
 There are good actions and There are evil actions.
Their Realities do not come from the mind in spite of
some people saying “ evil is all in the mind”
 Some people do not see evil, accept it as something
“normal”, or identify it as something else. Some, for
Example, would regard pornography as an art. Some
think of gambling and prostitution as means of
livelihood. A terrorist believes that are murdering
unbelievers is fulfilling God’s Will. A government
official believes accepting bribe is a privilege of his
 A pile of garbage is garbage even if a scavenger were to
say it is good. Garbage represents what is ugly, dirty
and bad in the surrounding. In contrast, A rose garden
stand for what is clean, beautiful, and wholesome.
Therefore, only he who is intellectual dishonest would
claim “evil is only in the mind”, implying that evil is
something imaginary, an illusion.
 The expression “ang masama ay nasa isip lamang”
should not mean that evil is a fiction. It should mean
rather that an evil act begins in the mind as an evil
though and its translated into an immoral act. Indeed,
the mind is “the devil workshop”.