St. Edmund Campion Catechism Group - Series 2 Lesson 5

Basic Catholic anthropology

Podcast: Basic Catholic Anthropology
Podcast: Notes
My Catholic Faith: Chapters
Catholic Encyclopedia: Human Acts, Passions, Law
Aquinas 101: Human actionsFonts of MoralityPassions in general, Specific passions
Summa Theologica: Prima Secundae Q6-48
Companion to the Summa: Vol II


To understand the following.

1. Recap: Man is composed of body and immortal soul.

2. Meaning of anthropology: the study of human behaviour

3. How man works:

  • Intellect to know the truth (analogy: the judicial power)
  • Will:  to direct movement to the good (analogy: the executive power)
  • Passions: to push/pull the will (analogy: the lobbies of government)
  • Virtues: habits that help the intellect and the will to truth and goodness (analogy: an uncorrupt and efficient civil service)

Human Act: a human act is one which proceeds from the deliberate will of man ; or, an act which proceeds from the knowledge of the intellect and the impulse of the will ; or, an act of which man himself is the master.

4. Definition of a Moral Act: The human act measured by the rule of behaviour (natural and revealed law).

The morality of an act consists in its relationship to a standard of morality:

Three elements of every moral action:

  • Object (the act itself)
  • Intention
  • Circumstances

There exist three types of morality : goodness, evil, and moral indifference. 


  • The Act itself: If it is intrinsically evil, then nothing can make it good (e.g. lying, adultery, suicide). 
  • The Intention will can change the morality of an act from good to evil, to a greater/lesser good/evil, but never from evil to good. The end does not justify the means.

Examples: neglect of family to help a stranger diminishes the evil of neglect; giving a gift to make another jealous turns a good act to evil.

    6. Definition and types of passions: The act of a sensitive appetite.

    Two main categories

    • (i) concupiscible in front of a bonum simpliciter: love, delight, desire; hate, sorrow, aversion
    • (ii) irascible in front of a bonum arduum: hope, despair; audacity, fear, anger