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St. Thomas Aquinas
Summa Theologica

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  • SECOND PART
    • Aquin.: SMT FS Prologue Para. 1/1 - FIRST PART OF THE SECOND PART (FS) (QQ[1]-114)
      • Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] Out. Para. 1/1 - OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF HUMAN ACTS (FOUR ARTICLES)
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Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] Out. Para. 1/1 - OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF HUMAN ACTS (FOUR ARTICLES)

We must now consider the circumstances of human acts: under which head
there are four points of inquiry:

(1) What is a circumstance?

(2) Whether a theologian should take note of the circumstances of human
acts?

(3) How many circumstances are there?

(4) Which are the most important of them?


Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[1] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether a circumstance is an accident of a human act?

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[1] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that a circumstance is not an accident of a human
act. For Tully says (De Invent. Rhetor. i) that a circumstance is that
from "which an orator adds authority and strength to his argument." But
oratorical arguments are derived principally from things pertaining to
the essence of a thing, such as the definition, the genus, the species,
and the like, from which also Tully declares that an orator should draw
his arguments. Therefore a circumstance is not an accident of a human act.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[1] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, "to be in" is proper to an accident. But that which
surrounds [circumstat] is rather out than in. Therefore the circumstances
are not accidents of human acts.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[1] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, an accident has no accident. But human acts themselves
are accidents. Therefore the circumstances are not accidents of acts.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[1] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, The particular conditions of any singular thing are
called its individuating accidents. But the Philosopher (Ethic. iii, 1)
calls the circumstances particular things [*{ta kath' ekasta}], i.e. the
particular conditions of each act. Therefore the circumstances are
individual accidents of human acts.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[1] Body Para. 1/2

I answer that, Since, according to the Philosopher (Peri Herm. i),
"words are the signs of what we understand," it must needs be that in
naming things we follow the process of intellectual knowledge. Now our
intellectual knowledge proceeds from the better known to the less known.
Accordingly with us, names of more obvious things are transferred so as
to signify things less obvious: and hence it is that, as stated in
Metaph. x, 4, "the notion of distance has been transferred from things
that are apart locally, to all kinds of opposition": and in like manner
words that signify local movement are employed to designate all other
movements, because bodies which are circumscribed by place, are best
known to us. And hence it is that the word "circumstance" has passed from
located things to human acts.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[1] Body Para. 2/2

Now in things located, that is said to surround something, which is
outside it, but touches it, or is placed near it. Accordingly, whatever
conditions are outside the substance of an act, and yet in some way touch
the human act, are called circumstances. Now what is outside a thing's
substance, while it belongs to that thing, is called its accident.
Wherefore the circumstances of human acts should be called their
accidents.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[1] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: The orator gives strength to his argument, in the first
place, from the substance of the act; and secondly, from the
circumstances of the act. Thus a man becomes indictable, first, through
being guilty of murder; secondly, through having done it fraudulently, or
from motives of greed or at a holy time or place, and so forth. And so in
the passage quoted, it is said pointedly that the orator "adds strength
to his argument," as though this were something secondary.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[1] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: A thing is said to be an accident of something in two ways.
First, from being in that thing: thus, whiteness is said to be an
accident of Socrates. Secondly, because it is together with that thing in
the same subject: thus, whiteness is an accident of the art of music,
inasmuch as they meet in the same subject, so as to touch one another, as
it were. And in this sense circumstances are said to be the accidents of
human acts.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[1] R.O. 3 Para. 1/2

Reply OBJ 3: As stated above (ad 2), an accident is said to be the
accident of an accident, from the fact that they meet in the same
subject. But this happens in two ways. First, in so far as two accidents
are both related to the same subject, without any relation to one
another; as whiteness and the art of music in Socrates. Secondly, when
such accidents are related to one another; as when the subject receives
one accident by means of the other; for instance, a body receives color
by means of its surface. And thus also is one accident said to be in
another; for we speak of color as being in the surface.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[1] R.O. 3 Para. 2/2

Accordingly, circumstances are related to acts in both these ways. For
some circumstances that have a relation to acts, belong to the agent
otherwise than through the act; as place and condition of person; whereas
others belong to the agent by reason of the act, as the manner in which
the act is done.


Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[2] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether theologians should take note of the circumstances of human acts?

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[2] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that theologians should not take note of the
circumstances of human acts. Because theologians do not consider human
acts otherwise than according to their quality of good or evil. But it
seems that circumstances cannot give quality to human acts; for a thing
is never qualified, formally speaking, by that which is outside it; but
by that which is in it. Therefore theologians should not take note of the
circumstances of acts.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[2] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, circumstances are the accidents of acts. But one thing
may be subject to an infinity of accidents; hence the Philosopher says
(Metaph. vi, 2) that "no art or science considers accidental being,
except only the art of sophistry." Therefore the theologian has not to
consider circumstances.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[2] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, the consideration of circumstances belongs to the
orator. But oratory is not a part of theology. Therefore it is not a
theologian's business to consider circumstances.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[2] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Ignorance of circumstances causes an act to be
involuntary, according to Damascene (De Fide Orth. ii, 24) and Gregory of
Nyssa [*Nemesius, De Nat. Hom. xxxi.]. But involuntariness excuses from
sin, the consideration of which belongs to the theologian. Therefore
circumstances also should be considered by the theologian.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[2] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, Circumstances come under the consideration of the
theologian, for a threefold reason. First, because the theologian
considers human acts, inasmuch as man is thereby directed to Happiness.
Now, everything that is directed to an end should be proportionate to
that end. But acts are made proportionate to an end by means of a certain
commensurateness, which results from the due circumstances. Hence the
theologian has to consider the circumstances. Secondly, because the
theologian considers human acts according as they are found to be good or
evil, better or worse: and this diversity depends on circumstances, as we
shall see further on (Q[18], AA[10],11; Q[73], A[7]). Thirdly, because
the theologian considers human acts under the aspect of merit and
demerit, which is proper to human acts; and for this it is requisite that
they be voluntary. Now a human act is deemed to be voluntary or
involuntary, according to knowledge or ignorance of circumstances, as
stated above (Q[6], A[8]). Therefore the theologian has to consider
circumstances.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[2] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Good directed to the end is said to be useful; and this
implies some kind of relation: wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. i,
6) that "the good in the genus 'relation' is the useful." Now, in the
genus "relation" a thing is denominated not only according to that which
is inherent in the thing, but also according to that which is extrinsic
to it: as may be seen in the expressions "right" and "left," "equal" and
"unequal," and such like. Accordingly, since the goodness of acts
consists in their utility to the end, nothing hinders their being called
good or bad according to their proportion to extrinsic things that are
adjacent to them.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[2] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Accidents which are altogether accidental are neglected by
every art, by reason of their uncertainty and infinity. But such like
accidents are not what we call circumstances; because circumstances
although, as stated above (A[1]), they are extrinsic to the act,
nevertheless are in a kind of contact with it, by being related to it.
Proper accidents, however, come under the consideration of art.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[2] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: The consideration of circumstances belongs to the moralist,
the politician, and the orator. To the moralist, in so far as with
respect to circumstances we find or lose the mean of virtue in human acts
and passions. To the politician and to the orator, in so far as
circumstances make acts to be worthy of praise or blame, of excuse or
indictment. In different ways, however: because where the orator
persuades, the politician judges. To the theologian this consideration
belongs, in all the aforesaid ways: since to him all the other arts are
subservient: for he has to consider virtuous and vicious acts, just as
the moralist does; and with the orator and politician he considers acts
according as they are deserving of reward or punishment.


Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[3] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether the circumstances are properly set forth in the third book of
Ethics?

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[3] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that the circumstances are not properly set forth
in Ethic. iii, 1. For a circumstance of an act is described as something
outside the act. Now time and place answer to this description. Therefore
there are only two circumstances, to wit, "when" and "where."

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[3] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, we judge from the circumstances whether a thing is well
or ill done. But this belongs to the mode of an act. Therefore all the
circumstances are included under one, which is the "mode of acting."

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[3] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, circumstances are not part of the substance of an act.
But the causes of an act seem to belong to its substance. Therefore no
circumstance should be taken from the cause of the act itself.
Accordingly, neither "who," nor "why," nor "about what," are
circumstances: since "who" refers to the efficient cause, "why" to the
final cause, and "about what" to the material cause.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[3] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary is the authority of the Philosopher in Ethic. iii, 1.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[3] Body Para. 1/2

I answer that, Tully, in his Rhetoric (De Invent. Rhetor. i), gives
seven circumstances, which are contained in this verse:


"Quis, quid, ubi, quibus auxiliis, cur, quomodo, quando -

Who, what, where, by what aids, why, how, and when."


For in acts we must take note of "who" did it, "by what aids" or
"instruments" he did it, "what" he did, "where" he did it, "why" he did
it, "how" and "when" he did it. But Aristotle in Ethic. iii, 1 adds yet
another, to wit, "about what," which Tully includes in the circumstance
"what."

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[3] Body Para. 2/2

The reason of this enumeration may be set down as follows. For a
circumstance is described as something outside the substance of the act,
and yet in a way touching it. Now this happens in three ways: first,
inasmuch as it touches the act itself; secondly, inasmuch as it touches
the cause of the act; thirdly, inasmuch as it touches the effect. It
touches the act itself, either by way of measure, as "time" and "place";
or by qualifying the act as the "mode of acting." It touches the effect
when we consider "what" is done. It touches the cause of the act, as to
the final cause, by the circumstance "why"; as to the material cause, or
object, in the circumstance "about what"; as to the principal efficient
cause, in the circumstance "who"; and as to the instrumental efficient
cause, in the circumstance "by what aids."

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[3] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Time and place surround [circumstant] the act by way of
measure; but the others surround the act by touching it in any other way,
while they are extrinsic to the substance of the act.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[3] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: This mode "well" or "ill" is not a circumstance, but
results from all the circumstances. But the mode which refers to a
quality of the act is a special circumstance; for instance, that a man
walk fast or slowly; that he strike hard or gently, and so forth.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[3] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: A condition of the cause, on which the substance of the act
depends, is not a circumstance; it must be an additional condition. Thus,
in regard to the object, it is not a circumstance of theft that the
object is another's property, for this belongs to the substance of the
act; but that it be great or small. And the same applies to the other
circumstances which are considered in reference to the other causes. For
the end that specifies the act is not a circumstance, but some additional
end. Thus, that a valiant man act "valiantly for the sake of" the good of
the virtue or fortitude, is not a circumstance; but if he act valiantly
for the sake of the delivery of the state, or of Christendom, or some
such purpose. The same is to be said with regard to the circumstance
"what"; for that a man by pouring water on someone should happen to wash
him, is not a circumstance of the washing; but that in doing so he give
him a chill, or scald him; heal him or harm him, these are circumstances.


Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[4] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether the most important circumstances are "why" and "in what the act
consists"?

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[4] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that these are not the most important
circumstances, namely, "why" and those "in which the act is, [*hen ois e
praxis]" as stated in Ethic. iii, 1. For those in which the act is seem
to be place and time: and these do not seem to be the most important of
the circumstances, since, of them all, they are the most extrinsic to the
act. Therefore those things in which the act is are not the most
important circumstances.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[4] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, the end of a thing is extrinsic to it. Therefore it is
not the most important circumstance.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[4] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, that which holds the foremost place in regard to each
thing, is its cause and its form. But the cause of an act is the person
that does it; while the form of an act is the manner in which it is done. Therefore these two circumstances seem to be of the greatest importance.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[4] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Gregory of Nyssa [*Nemesius, De Nat. Hom. xxxi.] says
that "the most important circumstances" are "why it is done" and "what is
done."

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[4] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, As stated above (Q[1], A[1]), acts are properly called
human, inasmuch as they are voluntary. Now, the motive and object of the
will is the end. Therefore that circumstance is the most important of all
which touches the act on the part of the end, viz. the circumstance
"why": and the second in importance, is that which touches the very
substance of the act, viz. the circumstance "what he did." As to the
other circumstances, they are more or less important, according as they
more or less approach to these.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[4] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: By those things "in which the act is" the Philosopher does
not mean time and place, but those circumstances that are affixed to the
act itself. Wherefore Gregory of Nyssa [*Nemesius, De Nat. Hom. xxxi], as
though he were explaining the dictum of the Philosopher, instead of the
latter's term - "in which the act is" - said, "what is done."

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[4] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Although the end is not part of the substance of the act,
yet it is the most important cause of the act, inasmuch as it moves the
agent to act. Wherefore the moral act is specified chiefly by the end.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[7] A[4] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: The person that does the act is the cause of that act,
inasmuch as he is moved thereto by the end; and it is chiefly in this
respect that he is directed to the act; while other conditions of the
person have not such an important relation to the act. As to the mode, it
is not the substantial form of the act, for in an act the substantial
form depends on the object and term or end; but it is, as it were, a
certain accidental quality of the act.





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