Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION XX.: OF THE GOOD AND EVIL OF EXTERIOR HUMAN ACTS. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1)
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QUESTION XX.: OF THE GOOD AND EVIL OF EXTERIOR HUMAN ACTS. - St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1) 
Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas. A Translation of the Principal Portions of the Second part of the Summa Theologica, with Notes by Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (London: Burns and Oates, 1892).
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OF THE GOOD AND EVIL OF EXTERIOR HUMAN ACTS.
Article II.—Is the entire good and evil of the exterior act dependent upon the good and evil of the will?
R. In an exterior act there may be considered a twofold good or evil; one in point of due matter and circumstances, another with respect to the end. That which is with respect to the end depends entirely on the will: but that which comes of due matter or circumstances depends on the reason; and on this goodness depends the goodness of the will according as the will tends towards it. We must further observe that, for a thing to be evil, one single defect suffices: but for a thing to be absolutely good, one single good point suffices not, but there is required an entirety of goodness. If therefore the will be good both in point of having a proper object and of having a proper end in view, the exterior act is consequently good. But for the exterior act to be good, the goodness of will, which comes of the intention of the end, does not suffice: but if the will be evil either from the intention of the end or from the act willed, the exterior act is consequently evil.
§ 1. A good will, as signified1 by a good tree, must be taken as having goodness at once from the act willed and from the end intended.
§ 2. Not only does a man sin by the will when he wills an evil end, but also when he wills an evil act.
§ 3. Not only the interior act of the will is designated as voluntary, but exterior acts also as proceeding from the will and reason.
Article III.—Is the goodness of the interior and exterior act one and the same?
R. The interior act of the will and the exterior act, are morally one act. But an act which is one in the subject in which it resides, may have one or several aspects of good or evil. So therefore we must say that in some cases the good and evil of the interior and of the exterior act is one and the same, and in other cases it is different. For these two specimens of good or evil, the one belonging to the interior and the other to the exterior act, are related one to the other. But of the things related one to the other, sometimes one is good only in relation to the other, as a bitter draught is good only as it is conducive to the recovery of health: hence it is not a different goodness, that of the health and that of the draught, but one and the same. Sometimes, on the other hand, that which is related to another has in itself a character of goodness, even apart from its relation to another good: as a palatable medicine has a character of pleasurable goodness over and above its being conducive to the recovery of health. So therefore we must say that when the exterior act is good or evil only in relation to the end, then it is altogether one and the same goodness, that of the act of the will, which of itself regards the end, and that of the exterior act, which regards the end through the medium of the act of the will. But when the exterior act has a goodness or evil of its own, in point of matter or of circumstances, then the goodness of the exterior act is one, and the goodness of the will, which is of the end, is another goodness: yet so that the goodness of the end redounds from the will on to the exterior act, and the goodness of the matter and circumstances redounds on to the act of the will.
§ 1. The interior act and the exterior are physically different in kind: but out of these different constituents there results a moral unity.
§ 4. The act of the will is the formal element in regard of the exterior act. But out of the formal element and the material, unity results.
Article IV.—Does the exterior act make any addition of good or evil to the interior act?
R. If we speak of that goodness of the exterior act which it has from the goodness of the end, then to such goodness the exterior act adds nothing except it happen that the will itself becomes better in good actions or worse in evil ones. That may happen in three ways: first in point of number,—say, when one wishes to do a thing for a good or evil end, and does not do it for the nonce, but afterwards wills and does it; the action of the will is doubled, and so a double good is done or a double evil. In another way, in point of extension,—say, when one wishes to do a thing for a good or evil end and leaves off on account of some obstacle, while another man keeps up the motion of his will until he carries the work through; it is manifest that such a will is longer continued in good or evil, and in that respect is worse or better. Thirdly, in point of intensity: for there are some exterior acts which, as being pleasurable or painful, are naturally calculated to intensify the will or to make it remiss. But it is clear that the more intensely a will tends to good or evil, the better or worse it is.
If, however, we speak of the goodness of the exterior act, which it has in point of matter and due circumstances, in that way it stands to the will as a term and end, and thus it adds to the goodness or evil of the will: because every inclination or movement is perfected by gaining its end or attaining its term. Hence the will is not perfect unless it be a will to go to work when the opportunity is given. But failing possibility, where the will remains perfect to go to work if it could, the lack of that perfection which comes of the exterior act is simply involuntary. But involuntariness, as it merits neither reward nor punishment in doing a good or an evil work, so neither does it take away aught of the reward or punishment, if a man of sheer involuntariness fails to do good or evil.
§ 1. Chrysostom’s saying, “It is the will which is either rewarded for good or condemned for evil,” is to be understood of the case when the will is perfect and complete, and only stops short of action for want of power to act.
§ 2. The goodness of the exterior act which it has from the matter and circumstances is different from the goodness of the will which is of the end, but not different from the goodness of the will which is of the act willed, but stands to that as the reason and cause thereof.1
Article VI.—Can the same exterior act be at once good and evil?
R. There is nothing to hinder a thing being one according as it is in one species, and multiple as referred to another species; one as referred to its physical species, and not one as referred to its moral species. For continuous walking is one act in physical species; and yet it may involve several acts in moral species, if there be a change in the will of the walker, since the will is the principle of moral acts. If then we consider an act that is one in moral species, such an act cannot be at once morally good and morally evil: but an act that is one in point of physical unity and not in point of moral unity, may be at once good and evil.
[1 ]St. Matt. vii. 18.
[1 ]For what is called the effect consequent of an act, see Ethics and Natural Law, p. 39. n. 17. (Trl.)