Sins of the Heart
Note: paper topics are up.
- How could one sin just by thinking or feeling a certain way? Well, if ethics is based on love (as Jesus says) or respect (as Kant says) for others, then how one treats them in one's heart does seem important.
- But what kind of a thought or feeling could be immoral?
- Is it immoral think of an immoral activity? Not always. The police officer has to spend quite a bit of time thinking about immoral activities. It seems that just about any activity you can imagine is one that a person might need to think about.
- I think Aquinas is helpful here: "Consequently when the reason fails in directing the internal passions, sin is said to be in the reason, as also when it fails in directing external actions. Now it fails, in two ways, in directing internal passions: first, when it commands unlawful passions; for instance, when a man deliberately provokes himself to a movement of anger, or of lust: secondly, when it fails to check the unlawful movement of a passion; for instance, when a man, having deliberately considered that a rising movement of passion is inordinate, continues, notwithstanding, to dwell [immoratur] upon it, and fails to drive it away. And in this sense the sin of morose delectation is said to be in the reason."
- So it's not just the thinking, but the thinking and the "passion" or feeling. Reason, our intellect, can excite feelings--we can decide to think how nice it would be help someone, or how nice it owuld be to hurt someone; we can "work ourselves up" to anger (or greed or envy or lust or pride...). Also, we can control our feelings to some extent. If we notice an inordinate (i.e., inappropriate) thought coming on, we can drive it away by thinking about something else (e.g., some people find it useful to reflect on a religious matter) or busying ourselves in some activity. Aquinas thus thinks that some feelings are inappropriate, and it's wrong to induce the inappropriate ones, or to fail to fight against them.