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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[75] Out. Para. 1/1 - OF THE CAUSES OF SIN, IN GENERAL (FOUR ARTICLES)
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Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] Out. Para. 1/1 - OF THE CAUSES OF SIN, IN GENERAL (FOUR ARTICLES)

We must now consider the causes of sin: (1) in general; (2) in
particular. Under the first head there are four points of inquiry:

(1) Whether sin has a cause?

(2) Whether it has an internal cause?

(3) Whether it has an external cause?

(4) Whether one sin is the cause of another?


Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[1] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether sin has a cause?

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[1] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that sin has no cause. For sin has the nature of
evil, as stated above (Q[71], A[6]). But evil has no cause, as Dionysius
says (Div. Nom. iv). Therefore sin has no cause.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[1] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, a cause is that from which something follows of
necessity. Now that which is of necessity, seems to be no sin, for every
sin is voluntary. Therefore sin has no cause.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[1] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, if sin has a cause, this cause is either good or evil.
It is not a good, because good produces nothing but good, for "a good
tree cannot bring forth evil fruit" (Mt. 7:18). Likewise neither can evil
be the cause of sin, because the evil of punishment is a sequel to sin,
and the evil of guilt is the same as sin. Therefore sin has no cause.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[1] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Whatever is done has a cause, for, according to Job
5:6, "nothing upon earth is done without a cause." But sin is something done; since it a "word, deed, or desire contrary to the law of God."
Therefore sin has a cause.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[1] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, A sin is an inordinate act. Accordingly, so far as it is
an act, it can have a direct cause, even as any other act; but, so far as
it is inordinate, it has a cause, in the same way as a negation or
privation can have a cause. Now two causes may be assigned to a negation:
in the first place, absence of the cause of affirmation; i.e. the
negation of the cause itself, is the cause of the negation in itself;
since the result of the removing the cause is the removal of the effect:
thus the absence of the sun is the cause of darkness. In the second
place, the cause of an affirmation, of which a negation is a sequel, is
the accidental cause of the resulting negation: thus fire by causing heat
in virtue of its principal tendency, consequently causes a privation of
cold. The first of these suffices to cause a simple negation. But, since
the inordinateness of sin and of every evil is not a simple negation, but
the privation of that which something ought naturally to have, such an
inordinateness must needs have an accidental efficient cause. For that
which naturally is and ought to be in a thing, is never lacking except on
account of some impeding cause. And accordingly we are wont to say that
evil, which consists in a certain privation, has a deficient cause, or an
accidental efficient cause. Now every accidental cause is reducible to
the direct cause. Since then sin, on the part of its inordinateness, has
an accidental efficient cause, and on the part of the act, a direct
efficient cause, it follows that the inordinateness of sin is a result
of the cause of the act. Accordingly then, the will lacking the direction
of the rule of reason and of the Divine law, and intent on some mutable
good, causes the act of sin directly, and the inordinateness of the act,
indirectly, and beside the intention: for the lack of order in the act
results from the lack of direction in the will.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[1] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Sin signifies not only the privation of good, which
privation is its inordinateness, but also the act which is the subject of that privation, which has the nature of evil: and how this evil has a
cause, has been explained.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[1] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: If this definition is to be verified in all cases, it must
be understood as applying to a cause which is sufficient and not impeded.
For it happens that a thing is the sufficient cause of something else,
and that the effect does not follow of necessity, on account of some
supervening impediment: else it would follow that all things happen of
necessity, as is proved in Metaph. vi, text. 5. Accordingly, though sin
has a cause, it does not follow that this is a necessary cause, since its
effect can be impeded.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[1] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: As stated above, the will in failing to apply the rule of
reason or of the Divine law, is the cause of sin. Now the fact of not
applying the rule of reason or of the Divine law, has not in itself the
nature of evil, whether of punishment or of guilt, before it is applied
to the act. Wherefore accordingly, evil is not the cause of the first
sin, but some good lacking some other good.


Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[2] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether sin has an internal cause?

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[2] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1
OBJ 1: It would seem that sin has no internal cause. For that which is
within a thing is always in it. If therefore sin had an internal cause,
man would always be sinning, since given the cause, the effect follows.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[2] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, a thing is not its own cause. But the internal movements
of a man are sins. Therefore they are not the cause of sin.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[2] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, whatever is within man is either natural or voluntary.
Now that which is natural cannot be the cause of sin, for sin is contrary
to nature, as Damascene states (De Fide Orth. ii, 3; iv, 21); while that
which is voluntary, if it be inordinate, is already a sin. Therefore
nothing intrinsic can be the cause of the first sin.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[2] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Augustine says (De Duabus Anim. x, 10,11; Retract. i,
9) that "the will is the cause of sin."

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[2] Body Para. 1/2

I answer that, As stated above (A[1]), the direct cause of sin must be
considered on the part of the act. Now we may distinguish a twofold
internal cause of human acts, one remote, the other proximate. The
proximate internal cause of the human act is the reason and will, in
respect of which man has a free-will; while the remote cause is the
apprehension of the sensitive part, and also the sensitive appetite. For
just as it is due to the judgment of reason, that the will is moved to
something in accord with reason, so it is due to an apprehension of the
senses that the sensitive appetite is inclined to something; which
inclination sometimes influences the will and reason, as we shall explain
further on (Q[77], A[1]). Accordingly a double interior cause of sin may
be assigned; one proximate, on the part of the reason and will; and the
other remote, on the part of the imagination or sensitive appetite.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[2] Body Para. 2/2

But since we have said above (A[1], ad 3) that the cause of sin is some
apparent good as motive, yet lacking the due motive, viz. the rule of
reason or the Divine law, this motive which is an apparent good,
appertains to the apprehension of the senses and to the appetite; while
the lack of the due rule appertains to the reason, whose nature it is to
consider this rule; and the completeness of the voluntary sinful act
appertains to the will, so that the act of the will, given the conditions
we have just mentioned, is already a sin.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[2] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: That which is within a thing as its natural power, is
always in it: but that which is within it, as the internal act of the
appetitive or apprehensive power, is not always in it. Now the power of
the will is the potential cause of sin, but is made actual by the
preceding movements, both of the sensitive part, in the first place, and
afterwards, of the reason. For it is because a thing is proposed as
appetible to the senses, and because the appetite is inclined, that the
reason sometimes fails to consider the due rule, so that the will
produces the act of sin. Since therefore the movements that precede it
are not always actual, neither is man always actually sinning.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[2] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: It is not true that all the internal acts belong to the
substance of sin, for this consists principally in the act of the will;
but some precede and some follow the sin itself.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[2] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: That which causes sin, as a power produces its act, is
natural; and again, the movement of the sensitive part, from which sin
follows, is natural sometimes, as, for instance, when anyone sins through
appetite for food. Yet sin results in being unnatural from the very fact
that the natural rule fails, which man, in accord with his nature, ought
to observe.


Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[3] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether sin has an external cause?

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[3] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that sin has no external cause. For sin is a
voluntary act. Now voluntary acts belong to principles that are within
us, so that they have no external cause. Therefore sin has no external
cause.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[3] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, as nature is an internal principle, so is the will. Now
in natural things sin can be due to no other than an internal cause; for
instance, the birth of a monster is due to the corruption of some
internal principle. Therefore in the moral order, sin can arise from no
other than an internal cause. Therefore it has no external cause.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[3] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, if the cause is multiplied, the effect is multiplied.
Now the more numerous and weighty the external inducements to sin are,
the less is a man's inordinate act imputed to him as a sin. Therefore
nothing external is a cause of sin.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[3] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, It is written (Num. 21:16): "Are not these they, that
deceived the children of Israel by the counsel of Balaam, and made you
transgress against the Lord by the sin of Phogor?" Therefore something
external can be a cause of sin.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[3] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, As stated above (A[2]), the internal cause of sin is both
the will, as completing the sinful act, and the reason, as lacking the
due rule, and the appetite, as inclining to sin. Accordingly something
external might be a cause of sin in three ways, either by moving the will
itself immediately, or by moving the reason, or by moving the sensitive
appetite. Now, as stated above (Q[9], A[6]; Q[10], A[4]), none can move
the will inwardly save God alone, who cannot be a cause of sin, as we
shall prove further on (Q[79], A[1]). Hence it follows that nothing
external can be a cause of sin, except by moving the reason, as a man or
devil by enticing to sin; or by moving the sensitive appetite, as certain
external sensibles move it. Yet neither does external enticement move the
reason, of necessity, in matters of action, nor do things proposed
externally, of necessity move the sensitive appetite, except perhaps it
be disposed thereto in a certain way; and even the sensitive appetite
does not, of necessity, move the reason and will. Therefore something
external can be a cause moving to sin, but not so as to be a sufficient
cause thereof: and the will alone is the sufficient completive cause of
sin being accomplished.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[3] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: From the very fact that the external motive causes of sin
do not lead to sin sufficiently and necessarily, it follows that it
remains in our power to sin or not to sin.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[3] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: The fact that sin has an internal cause does not prevent
its having an external cause; for nothing external is a cause of sin,
except through the medium of the internal cause, as stated.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[3] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: If the external causes inclining to sin be multiplied, the
sinful acts are multiplied, because they incline to the sinful act in
both greater numbers and greater frequency. Nevertheless the character of
guilt is lessened, since this depends on the act being voluntary and in
our power.


Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[4] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether one sin is a cause of another?

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[4] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that one sin cannot be the cause of another. For
there are four kinds of cause, none of which will fit in with one sin
causing another. Because the end has the character of good; which is
inconsistent with sin, which has the character of evil. In like manner
neither can a sin be an efficient cause, since "evil is not an efficient
cause, but is weak and powerless," as Dionysius declares (Div. Nom. iv).
The material and formal cause seems to have no place except in natural
bodies, which are composed of matter and form. Therefore sin cannot have
either a material or a formal cause.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[4] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, "to produce its like belongs to a perfect thing," as
stated in Meteor. iv, 2 [*Cf. De Anima ii.]. But sin is essentially
something imperfect. Therefore one sin cannot be a cause of another.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[4] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, if one sin is the cause of a second sin, in the same
way, yet another sin will be the cause of the first, and thus we go on
indefinitely, which is absurd. Therefore one sin is not the cause of
another.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[4] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Gregory says on Ezechiel (Hom. xi): "A sin is not
quickly blotted out by repentance, is both a sin and a cause of sin."

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[4] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, Forasmuch as a sin has a cause on the part of the act of
sin, it is possible for one sin to be the cause of another, in the same
way as one human act is the cause of another. Hence it happens that one
sin may be the cause of another in respect of the four kinds of causes.
First, after the manner of an efficient or moving cause, both directly
and indirectly. Indirectly, as that which removes an impediment is called
an indirect cause of movement: for when man, by one sinful act, loses
grace, or charity, or shame, or anything else that withdraws him from
sin, he thereby falls into another sin, so that the first sin is the
accidental cause of the second. Directly, as when, by one sinful act, man
is disposed to commit more readily another like act: because acts cause
dispositions and habits inclining to like acts. Secondly, after the
manner of a material cause, one sin is the cause of another, by preparing
its matter: thus covetousness prepares the matter for strife, which is
often about the wealth a man has amassed together. Thirdly, after the
manner of a final cause, one sin causes another, in so far as a man
commits one sin for the sake of another which is his end; as when a man
is guilty of simony for the end of ambition, or fornication for the
purpose of theft. And since the end gives the form to moral matters, as
stated above (Q[1], A[3]; Q[18], AA[4],6), it follows that one sin is
also the formal cause of another: because in the act of fornication
committed for the purpose of theft, the former is material while the
latter is formal.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[4] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Sin, in so far as it is inordinate, has the character of
evil; but, in so far as it is an act, it has some good, at least
apparent, for its end: so that, as an act, but not as being inordinate,
it can be the cause, both final and efficient, of another sin. A sin has
matter, not "of which" but "about which" it is: and it has its form from
its end. Consequently one sin can be the cause of another, in respect of
the four kinds of cause, as stated above.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[4] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Sin is something imperfect on account of its moral
imperfection on the part of its inordinateness. Nevertheless, as an act
it can have natural perfection: and thus it can be the cause of another
sin.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[75] A[4] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Not every cause of one sin is another sin; so there is no
need to go on indefinitely: for one may come to one sin which is not
caused by another sin.





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