Cristobal Orrego
Pages 267-271
DOI: 10.5840/cultura20107220


This is the latest account of the specification of actions within the Thomist tradition. The differing Thomist positions, according to the Introduction and the first chapter, are three. (1) Physicalism assigns a key role to the physical structure of the action in the determination of its moral species, with some level of independence from the intention of the agent. Hence when a doctor crushes the skull of a baby to end a death threatening labour, he thereby directly kills the baby, because, from the point of view of the causal structure and the nature of human beings, to crush their heads /s to kill them. (2) Abelardianism disregards the causal or physical structure of actions, and focuses on Aquinas’s dictum that actions receive their species only from what is intended and not from what lies outside intention. Hence a doctor can intend to crush the skull of a baby to end labour and save the mother without intending to kill the baby, but accepting the death as a side effect. So craniotomy is not specified by the death of the baby, although it inevitably causes death. And (3) Proportionalism combines a physical understanding of actions with an understanding of moral species as defined not by their natural structure but by their moral evaluation, so that the moral species of an evil action includes the judgment that forbids the action. A physical craniotomy would be an undue killing if used as a method to kill a baby with no proportionate