IN THE LAST CHAPTER we examined human acts, the steps man takes in the pursuit of happiness. In this chapter we shall consider the question of the morality of human acts. For morality, by showing the rightness or wrongness of human acts, shows us the foundation of the road to happiness and the road to despair.

EVERYONE UNDERSTANDS, at least in a general way, what we mean by the morality of a human act. The morality of an act is its rightness or its wrongness, its good or its evil, its suitability to praise or blame, to merit or punishment.

BUT EVERYONE DOES NOT AGREE on the foundation of morality. What makes a man's actions good or bad? deserving of praise or reproach? Some would say that morality is merely custom or convenience. It is based on a set of rules for conduct which men have adopted merely because they have found it convenient or easy to live in a certain way. At the whim or the arbitrary will of society the rules, they say, may be changed. What was right yesterday may be wrong today, if custom or convenience approve the change. In this view divorce and remarriage are wrong when men do not approve of them and right when they do approve of them.

OTHERS HAVE SAID the foundation of morality is to be found in authority: in the authority of the State, or of the civil law, or in the authority of a father as head of the family, or even in the authority of the individual to rule himself. In this view men act morally when they obey the voice of some human authority. But the authority itself has no other sanction but custom or convenience.

STILL OTHERS HAVE, in theory at least, destroyed all morality by making man the slave of biological, psychological, or sociological forces. Men dow hat they do, not through a reasoned control of their actions, but because they are driven to their actions by the physical and chemical forces at work in their bodies, or by the psychical forces at work in their sub-conscious minds, or by the heavy pressure of the socio-economic forces at work in society.

BUT NONE OF THESE EXPLANATIONS is adequate. Man, as we have seen, is free. He is not the helpless slave of biology, or psychology, or sociology. He is in control of his own actions in the pursuit of happiness. Therefore, the authority of no group or individual can be the total explanation of the morality of his actions. A man obeys the authority of the State, or of the civil law, or of the Church, or of his father, or of himself, nit just because it is an authority with the power to force him to do its will, but because he recognizes that obedience to legitimate authority is a good thing---it can lead him to happiness. Again, man is a particular kind of being, and the kind of being that he is makes some things good for him and other things bad for him. This is true of all things. It is good for the fish to dwell in the depths of the ocean. The fish was made for this; he is equipped for this. But it is not good for man to try to live all his life submerged in water. He is not made for this; he is not equipped for this. Hence the basis of morality cannot be mere custom or convenience. It must be something that is concerned with the suitableness or the unsuitableness of things or actions for man as man. Rightness or wrongness, good or evil are determined not by custom but by the answers to the question, "What should this thing be?" Granite should be hard, solid and heavy. If it is then it is goad granite. A dog should be a live animal, with a body, having eyes to see with, ears to hear with, etc. If it is it is a good dog. But if it has no eyes or no ears then it is defective, and we call this defect an evil in the dog. The dog is not all that he should be. What a creature is, determines what is suitable or unsuitable for it. When it possesses what is in accord with its nature, then it is said to be good. When it lacks something which it ought to have, then it is said to be defective or evil. A bird ought to have wings because a bird is meant to fly. Without wings it is defective. But an elephant with wings is only a whimsical fantasy because the elephant is not meant to fly. So likewise a human action will be good or evil, perfect or defective according as it is or is not all that it should be.

BUT, AS WE SAW in our last chapter, man's controlled free actions are meant to lead him to perfect happiness. A man's free actions will be good or evil then insofar as they are suitable or unsuitable in relation to his ultimate destiny, the attainment of perfect happiness.

NOW IT IS HUMAN REASON which recognizes what is suitable or unsuitable for man in the pursuit of happiness. It is reason which recognizes the last end or goal of all human acts, namely, the good in general or happiness in general. It is reason also which makes the judgment that some actions will lead to this end while others will not. The judgment of human reason on the appropriateness of a human action to bring good to man is the immediate rule for human actions. The judgment of reason is the immediate foundation of morality in human actions.

THERE IS NOTHING ARBITRARY about this rule for human actions. Things or actions are not good or evil simply because the mind of man thinks them to be such. The judgment of reason is based on reality itself. The appropriateness of any particular good for any particular creature is based on the nature of the creature itself. Sunlight is good for corn because corn is meant to grow through the influence of light and heat. Wings are good for a bird because it is meant to fly. Some actions are good for man because they lead him to the perfect happiness for which he is intended in the order of God's creation. Others are not good for him because they do not lead him to the end for which he is intended by his nature. The judgment of reason then in questions of morality, in questions of the suitableness or the unsuitableness of human actions to man's last end is not created by the human mind. The mind of man only discovers this characteristic of appropriateness or inappropriateness in reality itself.

BUT CREATED REALITY is only an imitation, a reflection of the infinite perfection which is God Himself. Ultimately then things are good or evil, human actions are good or evil insofar as they accord with God's conception of what they ought to be. Behind the law of human reason there lies the solid foundation of the Eternal Law in the mind of God. But even here in the mind of the omnipotent God there is nothing of the arbitrary. Whatever God makes in the creature, whether it be by way of creation of the creature itself or of the production of the perfection or of the activity of the creature, everything that God makes in this world is an imitation of what He is Himself. But since He Himself is absolutely unchangeable, the essences of the things He makes in the world will also be unchangeable. Not even God then can make a good dog without the perfection that a dog should have, e.g., eyes, ears, etc. So too with human actions. The Eternal Law in God's mind is based on the natures of things as they reflect His Own perfection. The Eternal Law for human actions is based on the nature of man and the nature of human actions insofar as they reflect the perfection of God realized in man. The judgment of human reason on the morality of human actions is only a reflection or a participation of the human mind in the eternal, unchangeable mind of God.

BUT HOW, IN FACT, does human reason evaluate the goodness or evil in a human act? By measuring the suitability of the act from the point of view of the object of the act, the end or human purpose of the act, and the circumstances of the act.
THE OBJECT OF THE HUMAN ACT is the natural purpose accomplished by the act. The purpose accomplished by eating, as far as the act of eating is concerned, is the maintenance of the health of the body. The object or purpose of theft is stealing, taking unjust possession of someone else's property. As the examples show the object or purpose of the human act in itself is the basic determining factor of the morality of the human act. Human reason can see that some acts are good because their natural purpose is good, what they accomplish is good, and that other acts are evil because their natural purpose is evil,
what they accomplish is evil. To give alms to the poor is always a good object. To steal is always a bad object for a human act.
BUT THE OBJECT, the natural purpose, of a human act is not the only source of its morality. The person doing the act can direct its natural purpose to some further goal. Thus the man who spends hours training in a gymnasium may intend not only to be healthy and agile but also to use his acquired strength and agility to commit a series of second-story burglaries. Though physical agility in exercise is a good in itself, here the man's intention to use it for an evil purpose makes his acts in acquiring it evil. An evil intention can make evil an act whose natural purpose is good. The contrary, however, is not true. A good intention cannot make an evil act good. A man cannot steal five thousand dollars to help the poor. Though his intention is good his act is evil in itself.
THIRDLY, THE CIRCUMSTANCES of a human act can help determine its moral character. An evening at home seems good to a tired man. It seems better if there is peace and friendship and love there. An evening at home will seem bad to a tired man if there is no love between him and his wife and his children. It will seem worse if his wife is actually nagging him and shouting at him and the children. Similarly the actual circumstances in which a man is acting can make the goodness or the evil of his act better or worse. To love is a good thing, but to love your enemy is better, for it takes greater effort. To steal from a rich man is bad, but to steal from a poor man is worse.

SOMETIMES THE CIRCUMSTANCES of an act may play a larger role in the morality of an act. Sometimes a circumstance may be so important in the mind of the man acting that it really becomes the object or part of the object of his action. Murder is evil, but it is only one sin, the sin of murder. But when a man who hates God and religion kills a priest precisely because he is a priest then it is not only murder but sacrilege, an act of irreverence and hatred for God Himself.
IN THE PURSUIT of the good which constitutes happiness man determines the morality of his actions by the judgment of his reason on the object or natural purpose of his act, the end or human purpose of his act, and the circumstances of his act. If reason judges that all these elements of the act are good, that is, suitable to man as a creature seeking happiness, then his act is morally good. But if his reason judges that the act is unsuitable, evil from any of these points of view, then the act is sinful and will not lead man to happiness.
THIS, OF COURSE, is not the whole story of goodness or evil in human actions. When human reason has given its verdict on the goodness or evil of a proposed human act there is still the act of the will choosing or rejecting the act and beyond the internal act of the will there may be the external action itself. Both the will and the external action are related to the morality of man's actions. The will as the commanding power is the active source of good or evil. The external actions of man are the means he uses to accomplish good or evil in the world.
THE WILL OF MAN is good or evil according to the purposes which it seeks to accomplish. The proper object of the will itself is always the end or goal which man seeks through his acts. When we are speaking of external acts we distinguish between the object or natural purpose of the act and the human purpose or end of the act. A man goes to church to steal the money in the poor boxes. The object or natural purpose of the external act of going to church is to enable the man to be present in the church. This object may be good or evil. But the end or human purpose of the act, stealing money from the poor, is evil. Wherever we are considering an external act we can distinguish these two ends or purposes in the act. But when we are concerned with the internal acts of the will the object of the act of will and the end of the will are identical. For the will, simply as will, is always concerned with ends, with goals. Hence the goodness or the evil of the will is measured by the goodness or the evil of the ends which it chooses.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN that the end justifies the means. It does not mean that a good intention justifies an evil act. A man cannot rightly steal because he intends to use the money for a good purpose, e.g., to help the poor. The intention or purpose of the will gives form to any human action. But this inner form of the action must be measured against the form which the judgment of human reason proposes for the act. So in the case of a man who goes to church to pray, the act of the will intending to pray is good because reason judges that prayer is an action or a goal which will lead to the attainment of man's last end, happiness. On the other hand in the case of a man who goes to church to steal money from the poor boxes the act of the will intending to steal is evil because reason judges that stealing will turn the man away from the achievement of his ultimate goal, happiness.

IN THE LAST ANALYSIS, behind this judgment of human reason measuring the good or the evil of the ends sought by the human will there lies the Eternal Law in the mind of God. Human reason is a reflection of the Divine Knowledge. It may happen in a particular case that a man following human reason seeks a goal which is not in conformity with God's Will. A man works to achieve great wealth. But God does not wish him to be wealthy because God knows that great wealth will corrupt the man and lead him away from his ultimate happiness. But the difference of will between man and God in such a case is not a formal difference, i.e., the man is not consciously willing a goal against what he knows to be the Divine Will in the matter. Formally both God and the man are willing good for the man. As long as man follows the judgments of right reason he is seeking the good and his ends will be God's ends formally even though materially they may differ.
THE EXTERNAL ACTIONS which the will commands also have a relation to good or evil. When the external action is evil in itself the end or intention of the will cannot make the action good. Stealing is an evil even though the thief intends to use the money for a good purpose. But when the external action is good in itself or at least indifferent then the end intended by the will can make the action good or evil as the end of the will is good or evil. We praise the man who gives money to the poor to help them in their need. But we think poorly of the man who gives money to the poor only for reasons of vanity, to gain applause for himself.

THIS IDEA of praise or blame introduces us to the last question to be considered about the morality of human acts. It is customary for men to judge other men by their acts. We say that the man who pays his debts is a good man. We call the thief a bad man, a sinner. We think it right that a man be rewarded for his good acts and punished for his evil acts.
IT IS FASHIONABLE in some circles to ridicule the idea of sin and so to discount the ideas of praise or blame, merit or demerit. But facts are facts and the human mind must face them. To deride the notions of sin or praise or blame is reckless sentimentalism. It is a refusal to face facts. It is like the sentimentalism of a mother who persists in considering her son a model of goodness when she is faced with overwhelming evidence that he is a thief and a murderer.
THE JUDGMENTS of reason or of God on the morality of human acts are based on the nature of reality itself. They are as inescapable as reality itself. An act is good and worthy of praise when it can be properly directed to man's last end, perfect happiness. It is sin and worthy of reproach and punishment when it cannot be ordered to man's last end.
THE MORALITY OF HUMAN ACTIONS is pregnant therefore with important consequences for man. When a man so lives that his actions are directed to true happiness according to right reason he will ultimately attain true happiness. When his actions are not so directed or are incapable of being so directed he will lose his ultimate happiness.
MORALITY IS FOUND in every truly human act. Every deliberate, controlled act of a man will take him toward happiness or away from it. The dignity and the power of each man's freedom and control over his own human actions is clear. When a man's controlled command of his own actions is directed by reason to his last end, then that man is capable of reaching out beyond the space-time limits of the whole universe to the ageless, limitless horizons of the vision of God. When his deliberate, controlled actions are directed against the dictates of right reason to some other goal than perfect happiness then the man is descending into the smallest region of the confining and restraining limits of his own meager self. Good is an expanding force, capable of opening up the soul of man to the limitless vistas of the Divine Being. Evil and sin are constraining and limiting forces, capable of imprisoning man in the narrow confines of his smallest self.

MAN'S TASK IS TO CONTROL his action in the direction of good so that he may grow from time to eternity, from the smallness of himself to the greatness of God. The means of this control, right reason and good will, are within the power of every man. They are not the privileges of rich or poor, of the powerful or of the weak of this present world. By using the reason and the will properly every man can direct his steps unerringly forward to the vision of God in which his true happiness is to be found.


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