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The Thomist 70 (2006): 1-26 DO CIRCUMSTANCES GIVE SPECIES? STEVEN J. JENSEN WheelingJesuit University Wheeling, West Virginia IN HIS COMMENTARY on question 72, article 9 of the Prima Secundae, Cajetan states that Aquinas has changed his mind from a previous view expressed in the Sentences.1 The issue is whether circumstances give species to sins. When a thief steals a chalice, for instance, what are we to do with the sacredness of the chalice, which Aquinas considers a circumstance? Should we say that this circumstance gives species to the action, making it an act not only of theft but also of sacrilege, or should we say that it remains a circumstance, outside the species of the action, so that the thief commits only the act of theft and not the sin of sacrilege? There is little doubt, in both the Sentences and the Summa, that at least sometimes the thief commits sacrilege. The question is under what conditions this is the case. Consider two thieves who steal a chalice from a church. The first simply wants the gold, and the church happens to be a convenient place from which to take it. The second wants the gold, but in addition seeks to do damage to God through taking what is sacred. Both thieves commit the offense of theft, but what of the sin of sacrilege? Do both commit sacrilege, or only the second? After all, although the first thief is aware that his action "harms" God, it is not this that he seeks; he only wants the profit from the gold. The answer given in the Sentences is unequivocal: both thieves commit sacrilege. The answer that may be derived 1 Cajetan, Commentaria in Summam Theologicam S. Thomas Aquinatis, ed. R. GarroniĀ·(Rome: Editio Leonina, 1892), I-II, q. 72, a. 9 1 2 STEVEN J. JENSEN from the article in the Summa, on the other hand, seems to be that only the second thief commits sacrilege.2 The two texts differ, as Cajetan reads it, over the role of the will. In the Sentences, Aquinas explicitly states that circumstances can give species even when intention does not bear on them. In the Summa, however, he seems to imply that circumstances can give species only when they arise from some new motive for acting. The sacredness of the chalice, for instance, gives species only when the thief intends to steal the chalice precisely because it is sacred. The task here is more difficult than that of reconciling the two texts. Even if they are compatible, it will seem to some that Aquinas should have contradicted the Sentences passage, for it is inconsistent with Aquinas's teaching that moral actions take their species from the end intended.3 It is necessary, therefore, to give some account of how circumstances can give species even if they are not intended, which in turn requires a treatment of specification through the materia circa quam. In what follows, I will begin by laying out the apparently conflicting texts. I will then develop the interpretation of the Summa text, in which specifying circumstances must be intended. I will next explain how circumstances can give species through the materia circa quam. Finally, I will show that the suggested interpretation of the Summa text is incorrect, and that Cajetan's two texts can be reconciled. 2 We should note that Cajetan himself gets around this conclusion, but his manner of avoiding it will inevitably lead him into difficulties concerning the specification of actions, for he says that in order to give species it suffices for something to be with the end intended. Unless he can provide a clear delineation of what belongs with the end, he will be unable to identify the species of actions, for every circumstance is in some manner with the end intended. 3 For this view see Germain Grisez, The Way of the Lord Jesus, vol. 1, Christian Moral Principles (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1983), 247 n. 3. Also see Stephen L. Brock's comment on this view (Action and Conduct: Thomas Aquinas and the Theory of Action [Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1998], 218 n. 57). DO CIRCUMSTANCES GIVE SPECIES? 3 L THE CONFLICTING TEXTS...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 1-26
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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