THE CONSTITUENT ELEMENTS OF HUMAN ACTS Constituent elements of the human act refer to the inner causes or the constituting elements which generate a...
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THE CONSTITUENT ELEMENTS OF HUMAN ACTS

Constituent elements of the human act refer to the inner causes or the constituting elements which generate a human person to undertake a certain act. Understanding the human act indicates that two essential elements constitute a human act: The Intellectual Element and The Volitive Element.

The Intellectual Element

Knowledge is one of the essential qualities which distinguish humans from other sentient beings. Absolute truth in all situations and matters might be beyond human capabilities. But we humans can attain truth and that not all truths are relative are undeniable facts, as Epistemology will have established. The denial of such assertions only results in re-asserting them, by the very act itself. Universal scepticism and absolute relativism are found to be self-contradictory and as such are philosophically untenable doctrines. The faculty of willing can choose something and seek it only when it is first known. The faculty of the intellect undertake this act of learning. The human action is voluntary when the agent or the doer sufficiently knows its various elements and its implications before the will's operation. This process of knowing entails certain essential conditions: (i) adequate knowledge of the aspired object, (ii) attention to the action by which the particular item is to be pursued and (iii) judgement on the value of the act. The fulfilment of the above elements is essential, for, the human person cannot consciously and freely will something without proper knowledge about what the object one is concerned with and therefore conscious of act one is to perform to achieve the desired aim. It is also required to evaluate the activities undertaken in its concrete nature as a desirable good or an undesirable evil. Such an appraisal includes judgement on the moral or ethical value of the act.

Furthermore, the goodness or the badness of a particular human act is judged only under those of its sufficiently known aspects. For instance, a person who robs and kills a person not knowing him to be his brother, he is guilty of criminal injury but not culpable of fratricide's offence. However, from the above discussion, one should not presuppose that we have full knowledge of the act and its implications every time we undertake a human action. There is still room left for mistakes. We affirm here that with the right effort, the person can have sufficient knowledge of the object and its other considerations, essential for doing a human act.

The Volitive Element

Another essential characteristic that sets apart the human person from animals is voluntariness or what we commonly designate as free will. It is the intellect's task to conceptualize the good, propose it to the choice as something desirable, and judge the suitability of the means in its attainment. This awareness based on a certain amount of reflection is critical in analysing the human act. It can occur in varying degrees, depending on which they can affect the morality of the action. However, just this awareness is insufficient for the production of the human act. It is required that the presented good is willed freely by the person. The volitive dimension points that the will can freely make a choice of the concrete object in which the good is sought. Thus, when we hold a person morally responsible for his/her action, we assume that the act was done freely, knowing and willingly. The idea of responsibility would seem then to connote and presuppose that of free will. If a human person for some valid reason is not free to choose what he/she would like according to his/her insight and will but has to act against one's will, his/her action is not free, and consequently, such an act cannot be designated as a human act. For instance, a mentally disturbed person feels compelled to do something again and again. Still, he/she is conscious of the object one is concerned with and also the end of the action with which the item is pursued, yet such an act will not be voluntary because its execution is done with psychic compulsion and not with free will. So, an act to be a free act, and consequently, a human act is done without any internal or external compulsion. The degree of compulsion determines to a large extent the voluntariness of the action and therefore the culpability of the person. For instance, a high degree of compulsion may almost render the act involuntary and subsequently reduce the degree of culpability. One must note that anything that is an object of the will, we call the thing willed. But not everything that is willed is necessarily an effect of the will; for e.g. the setting of a house on fire which is not caused, but desired by someone, is something willed but is not the effect of the will. Thus, when what is willed is both the object and the effect of the choice, we call it voluntary. One can conclude the discussion on the two constitutive elements of the human act: intellectual and volitive, by affirming the essential union of the knowledge and will in the human action generation. The process involved in a Voluntary Act


A. What is human action? Explain the relationship between the intellectual element and the volitive element in the performance of human action.


B. Explain the factors that affect the morality of human action. 

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