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Analysis of the moral act. A proposal

II.d.3. Moral evaluation

In order for an effect or consequence to be able to be relevant from a moral point of view, it is necessary for this effect to have been foreseen (69), and that it is realized always or generally as a consequence of action undertaken (70); once this presupposition is admitted, we are in the position to evaluate whether an action with a tolerated effect is licit.

What we said earlier with respect to the moral object is valid once again: when evaluating an action's effects from the moral point of view, we must not consider physical deeds. What does come under consideration is whether it is good or evil to desirethese effects, whether it is appropriate for the agent to place his will in certain things that are the effect of his acting (71). Placing the deeds themselves under evaluation responds neither to the Thomistic explanation of the moral act nor to a reasonable comprehension of human action. This manner of focusing the question would place the morality of the action not in the will of the acting agent, but in deeds themselves. And if it is admitted that the goodness or evil resides in the deeds, once again we would be obligated to accept that moral principles allow exceptions (72).

How should tolerated effects be evaluated, when they exist, within the moral act? How do they influence the morality of an action? We have to obtain the response to these questions by examining the goodness of the agent's will, together with what the agent intends, what he does, and the effects he tolerates. It has already become clear that intention and decision (together with the corresponding action) have to be good. If they were bad, it would make absolutely no sense to speak of tolerated effects: the will has a bad object (intended or decided) and is bad; no consequence or effect can change this initial evaluation. But if the intention is good and the decision-action is as well, then it becomes appropriate to consider whether the tolerated effects are admissible in this case, and whether we can judge as good the agent's will.

A good will is shown when it develops good act, in that it places its intentionality in objects appropriate for man. Thus some bad effects would always be tolerable when the entirety of things desired by the agent's will can be evaluated as good (and always within the hypothesis that the intention and decision are good, as we have seen).

Within this context, in order to determine whether the will is good in its entirety we have to discover whether in the entirety there are more goods than evils. This can only be done by comparing the act of the will which moves the entire action (the intention) with the voluntary acceptance of the tolerated effects. What is tolerated will thus have to be proportional to what is intended (73). If in order to achieve a given good an evil greater than the good is tolerated, the will is bad. If in order to achieve a given good a lesser evil is tolerated, the will is good.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this section, Veritatis Splendor considers that the effects of an action are relevant when considering whether the action was good or bad. As the integration of the effects' evaluation with the rest of the moral act is not the object of its discourse, however, it does not make clarifications in this respect. In summary, in order to determine the morality of an act, in addition to foresight, intention and decision-action, the existence of proportionality between what is intended and what is tolerated has to be examined.


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