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Modifiers of Human Act

Prof. Fernandino J. Pancho


Modifiers of human act are also called obstacles of human act that affects or prevents a clear knowledge of
the object of the act. Or impair the coming about of a human act in its roots by diminishing or preventing the
consent of free will.
These obstacles may increase, decrease, or totally inhibit human behavior from moral responsibility or liability.
Ito ang nagtuturing or nagpapabago ng gawaing pantao.
Nababawasan ang pagkakusa ng ginawa.

Impairments of Required Knowledge
1) Ignorance - Defined as lacking of a required knowledge which human being should have of his moral duties.
a) Invincible Ignorance that ignorance which a man is not able to dispel by such ordinary diligence and
reasonable efforts.
b) Vincible Ignorance - the knowledge CAN be acquired by ordinary effort, but was not acquired because of
negligence or intentionally not acquired.

Crass/Supine when hardly effort has been used to dispel ignorance.

Ex. A nurse who has strong doubts about the medicine administered to a patient upon doctors orders and yet does not
consult a doctor when it could be easily done.

c) Affected/Pretended Ignorance - occurs when a person positively wants to be ignorant in order to plead
innocent to a charge of guilt.

Ex. A student who does not want to read the bulletin board/the student manual, for he suspects that a certain regulation
posted/written there in is opposed to his plans.

Principles:
1st. Invincible ignorance makes an act involuntary.
- An act which proceeds from this ignorance is not voluntary, it is not therefore a human act and consequently,
it is not imputable to the agent.
2nd. Vincible Ignorance does not destroy voluntariness, but it does lessen the voluntariness and responsibility of an act.
3rd. Affected ignorance does not excuse a person from his bad actions; on the contrary, it actually increases their
malice or their moral responsibility.
1) Error - It is an incorrect, unwise, or unfortunate act or decision caused by bad judgment or a lack of
information or care or a belief or opinion that is contrary to fact or to established doctrine.
- It is a result of poor judgment or lack of care.
- Its origin may lie in deficient education, the influence of bad company, the reading of misleading books and
papers, etc.
a) Aberratio Ictus there is mistake in the blow.
- Means the offender intending to cause injury to one person actually inflicts it to another.
b) Error in Personae there is mistake in the identity of the person.
c) Praeter Intentionem there is mistake in the intended result of the act.
- Means the injurious result is greater than what was intended.

Man is to overcome the errors which hold him under their sway in personal search for truth, to escape the
negative influence of those forces which misguide him, and reach views based on sound reasons.
For false convictions bring with them false attitudes to life.

2) Inattention - It is a failure to take proper care or give enough attention to something.
- Is an actual, momentary privation of knowledge.
- Inattention of a person may result to his contributory negligence to an act, thus, he/she can be partially liable.

Example: Using a cell phone while driving and meets an accident; Texting while walking

3) Passions or Concupiscence
Eleven Chief Passions
1. Love
2. Desire
3. Delight
4. Hope
5. Bravery
6. Anger
7. Hatred
8. Sadness
9. Despair
10. Fear
11. Horror

Passions in moral point of view

1. Passions are provided by nature for self-preservation of the individual and the human race.
- A person without them would be with no capacity for self-defence, growth, improvement and devotion.
2. Passions may be called good when ordered by the rational will to help man in the practice of virtue, or in the
attainment of that which is morally good.
3. Passions may be called bad when used by the rational will to accomplish morally evil actions or when it not
controlled by reason. A person should be a master of his/her passions and not a slave of it.

Division Passions
Antecedent Passions it arises spontaneously before the judgement of reason and before the will can control
the psychological situation.
When a delicious food is served at the table, it spontaneosly causes appetite and the desire to it. Example:
Consequent Passions it is deliberately aroused by the will in order to ensure a more prompt and willing
operation.
When a person deliberately provoking hatred in his heart in order to carry out his intentions to Example:
murder/kill another.

Principles - Passions
1st. Antecedent Passions may completely destroy freedom, and consequently, moral responsibility.
A wife, who, out of love for her husband, becomes so jealous that in a moment of savage rage, kills Example:
him and the concubine.
2nd. Antecedent Passions lessens freedom and diminish the responsibility of human actions because they tend to blind
the judgment of the intellect and block the freedom of the will.
A man who drinks immoderately shows in his actions more voluntariness but less freedom than a man Example:
who drinks occasionally only.
3rd. Antecedent Passions do not always destroy freedom, for passions seldom escape the control of reason.
4th. Consequent Passions do not lessen the voluntariness of an act but may increase it, because these kind of passions
are deliberately excited and they are voluntary in themselves.
By reading or watching immoral literature in order to intice or arouse the intellect and the will for Example:
another evil act masturbation.

4) Fear is a disturbance of the mind caused by the thought of a threatening evil.
- It is the apprehension by the mind of an impending evil.
- It is an unpleasant feeling of anxiety or apprehension caused by the presence or anticipation of danger.

Fear can be distinguish into
1. Acts done with fear or in spite of fear.
- When a person climbs a dangearous mountain at night.
2. Acts done from or through fear or because of fear.
- When a sea captain throws his cargo overboard in a storm in order to save the ship and the lives of the
passengers.
3. Acts done with or in spite of fear are always voluntary.
4. Acts done from, through or because of fear are involuntary.

Principles Fear
1. Fear may be slight or grave according to the amount or to the proximity of the impending evil.
2. Fear as a disturbance of the mind lessens the voluntariness but it does not destroy it.
3. Fear considered as an ordinary passion may increase or diminish the voluntariness of the human act.

5) Violence/Compulsion - is the application of external force on a person by another for the purpose of
compelling him to do something against his will.

Principle Violence

1) Human act resulting from violence are involuntary by themselves.
- But we are held morally responsible for all acts of the will itself even when the body is suffering violence.
Example: The body of a woman can be violated (rape), but her will or internal consent may remain inviolate or
she may internally consent.

2) Active resistance should always be offered to an unjust aggressor. However, if resistance is impossible or if there
is a serious threat to oness life, a person confronted by violence can always offer intrinsic resistance by
witholding consent; that is enought to save his/her moral integrity.

6) Habit is a constant and easy way of doing things acquired by the repetition of the same act.
- It is an established action or pattern of behavior that is repeated so often that it becomes typical of
somebody, although he or she may be unaware of it.
- Synonymous to addiction, dependency, fixation, obsession, weakness, custom, routine, practice, tradition,
convention, pattern.

Principles - Habit

1) Habits do not destroy voluntariness, and actions performed by the force of habits are imputable to man.

2) If a habit has been contracted absolutely involuntary and unintentionally, it will lack voluntariness and
responsibility as long as the person concerned remains ignorance of the existence of such habit.
Example: A habit of foul language during childhood.
3) If an evil/bad habits has been contracted voluntarily, but a positive and constant effort is being made to
counteract/resist/deter it, the acts inadvertently proceeding from the habit are considered involuntary and not
imputable to man.
Example: A person seriously exerts effort to repress a habit of saying foul words, he/she is no longer responsible for
his/her occasioanlly foul language.

References:
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Catechism for Filipino Catholics
Ethics or Moral Philosophy, Alfredo Panizo, O.P.
Christian Ethics, Karl H. Peschke
Encarta Dictionaries