Thomas Aquinas
Treatise on Human Acts: A Brief Summary

based on John A. Oesterle's translation
University of Notre Dame Press, 1983

Compiled by Dr. Jan Garrett
Last revised September 28, 2005

Question VI: The Voluntary and the Involuntary

1. There is something voluntary in human actions.

2. There is something voluntary in irrational animals (and children?).

3. There can be voluntariness without external action and sometimes without even internal willing.

4. No violence can be done to the proper act of the will.

5. Violence causes involuntariness.

6. Actions done out of fear are mixed, partly voluntary, partly not.

7. Concupiscence (desire for physical pleasure) does not cause involuntariness.

8. Ignorance in many (but not all) of its forms causes involuntariness.

Question VII: Circumstances of Human Acts

1. Circumstances are accidents of human acts.

2. A theologian (moral philosopher, advising moral judges) must consider the circumstances of human acts.

3. Aristotle properly enumerates the (seven) circumstances of human acts.

4. The circumstances Why and What is done are most important.

Question VIII: What the Will Wills

1. The object of the will is something apprehended as good.

2. We will not only the end (willing in the primary sense) but also the means.

3. The will is moved to the end by a different act than that by which it is moved to the means.

Question IX: What Moves the Will

1. The intellect moves the will by presenting its object to it.

2. The sense appetite (irascible and concupiscent appetite) can move the rational appetite (=will) in a person in whom passion prevails.

3. The will moves itself as follows: Through willing the end, it wills itself to will the means to the end.

4. The will is aroused to its first movement as a result of an external cause.

5. The movement of the heavenly bodies can indirectly influence the will insofar as the will is moved through the passions of the sense appetite.

6. God is the cause of the will in two senses: The will is a power of rational soul, which is created by God; the will is ordered to (implicitly wishes for) the universal good, which is identical to God.

Question X: The Manner In Which the Will is Moved

1. The will is moved to something naturally, i.e., the good in general.

2. The will is not moved necessarily by its object, for whatever the object may be, it is in man's power not to think of it.

3. The will is not moved by necessity by the passions of the lower (sense) appetite. (It is, for instance, in the power of the will not to consent to concupiscence.)

4. God moves the will so that he does not determine it with necessity, but leaves its movement contingent except with respect to its natural object (see #1).

Question XII: Intention

1. Intention is properly an act of the will.

2. Intention is always of the end, but it need not be always of the ultimate end.

3. One can intend two or more things at the same time, whether one of them is ordered to another or not.

4. When one intends the means for the sake of the end, there is just one movement. But we can also speak of two acts, intending the end and choosing the means.

5. The proper sense of intending belongs to a mover insofar as he orders the movement of himself and another to an end, and in this sense, irrational animals do not intend.

Question XIII: Choice

1. Even though choice involves reason, it is substantially an act of the will, since it clearly belongs to the appetitive power.

2. Choice does not belong to irrational animals (choice belongs to the will, not the sense appetite).

3. Choice concerns not the end, but the means. Choice follows upon a decision or judgment, which is like the conclusion of an operative syllogism.

4. Choice has to do with human actions.

5. Choice is only about what is possible, i.e., what can be done by us.

6. Man chooses freely and not with necessity.

Question XIV: Deliberation

1. Deliberation is a kind of inquiry, because in doubtful and uncertain matters reason does not propose a judgment without previous inquiry.

2. Deliberation is not about the end but about the means (although what is a means in relation to a remote end can be also an end in relation to a means directly under our control).

3. We deliberate only about what we do (when we meet for discussion of things over which we have no control, we may be trying to help each other understand, but we are not deliberating).

4. We do not deliberate about everything we do, e.g., about trivial matters or about things that fall under strict rules of art (area of expertise), such as spelling.

5. Deliberation proceeds by way of resolution (i.e., analysis). In matters where deliberation is needed, either because of the many conditions that must be in place before the goal is produced or because of the series of steps that must be taken to reach it, or both, we must break the task down into parts and put them in the proper order.

6. Deliberation does not proceed to infinity, for it concerns a definite end and it terminates in a choice (or practical judgment) about what is in our power.