The aim of this section is to clarify Scotus’s and Ockham’s accounts of the moral goodness of interior and of exterior acts. The two medieval authors agree at least that moral goodness is an intrinsic property of interior acts, although their accounts differ in some important respects.Footnote 29
In the context of this paper, I use ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’ as follows. That F is an intrinsic property of a thing a means that the loss of F affects the identity of a: if a loses its property F, then a is no longer the same. By contrast, if a property G is only an extrinsic property of a thing a, then the loss of G does not affect the identity of a: if a loses its property G, then a is still the same.Footnote 30 Let us start with the moral goodness of interior acts. Scotus writes:
[…] the moral goodness of an act is the completeness (integritas) of all the features that the agent’s right reason judges ought to characterize the act or the agent in so acting.Footnote 31
Scotus notably stresses the ‘completeness’ of an act: an act is morally good if it has all of the required features. These features include factors such as the intended end, time and place, and also the ‘mode’ or way of acting. Scotus, like Ockham, calls these factors ‘circumstances’.Footnote 32 That these features include the ‘mode’ of acting explains why Scotus speaks of the features as characterizing the act or the agent in so acting. As far as I can see, Scotus here refers to his preceding discussion of the way rational agents, that is, agents with the power of intellect and will, can act as opposed to agents lacking the power of the intellect and will.Footnote 33 Only rational agents can act on the basis of their judgment concerning the moral quality of the intended act. They also should adjust their acts to their judgment. Scotus also calls the judgment of right reason an intrinsic rule of rectitude of the agent’s own acts.Footnote 34 Thus, the ‘mode’ of acting can be taken to characterize the rational agent as acting knowingly and explicitly on the basis of his judgment concerning the moral quality of the intended act. The crucial point is that the judgment concerns all the required features. Unlike Ockham, Scotus does not conceive of the end as the principal object of an act of will.Footnote 35
Moral goodness is further classified as a kind of accidental goodness, as opposed to essential goodness.Footnote 36 There are two kinds of accidental goodness, namely (a) the “completeness of a thing’s suitability, or a thing’s complete suitability, to some other thing to which it ought to be suitable” and (b) “the (complete) suitability of some other thing to it.”Footnote 37 This is a difference in perspective. Accidental goodness concerns the relation of things which are good to or for other things and in this sense, are perfections of other things. Things perfecting other things are good for other things, but are not good in themselves, whereas the things perfected are good in themselves.
The first kind of accidental goodness concerns the thing that perfects another thing insofar as it is (a) suitable for another thing. An example would be health: to be healthy is good for human beings, because it is suitable for them, but it is not good in itself. The second kind concerns the thing perfected insofar as (b) it has a perfecting feature. Scotus presents Augustine’s example of a human face: a face that has all the features that are suitable to it, such as being well-proportioned and cheerful, is good in virtue of having all the features suitable to it. Morally good acts are good in this second sense. As indicated, the features in virtue of which an act is morally good are the end on account of which that act is elicited, the mode of acting, and time and place.Footnote 38 To be exact, it seems that an act of will needs to be elicited in the right relation to these factors, that is, on account of an appropriate end, at the appropriate time and place, and on the basis of a judgment concerning the moral quality of the intended act. An act of willing such as giving alms is good in general because its object is suitable. Whether a particular act of willing to give alms is morally good depends on its being performed on account of the appropriate end, at the appropriate time and place, and on the basis of a judgment, that is, knowingly. Although willing to give alms never is bad in and of itself, it can be morally better or worse depending on the circumstances.Footnote 39
For Scotus, the most relevant feature is the act’s relation to right reason. For an interior act to be morally good it is required that it complies with all the features that the agent judges that the act ought to comply with and because the agent judges that the act ought to comply with them. Thus:
- Moral goodness::
An interior act A of a person is morally good if and only if A has all the features that the person’s right reason judges ought to characterize A.
The features of end, mode of acting, time and place are features of the interior act of will in the first place, not of the ensuing exterior act. This is where double intentionality comes into play. The agent, by means of this act of willing, not merely intends something as an end, but also intends it as an end in light of his judgment that he ought to intend the end in these circumstances and in this particular way. In the terminology of double intentionality, this is what constitutes the difference between an interior act of willing and a morally good interior act of willing, namely the order of the interior act and the normative judgment that this interior act ought to be elicited.
How does Ockham conceive of the moral goodness of interior acts? Ockham agrees that being morally good is an intrinsic property of an interior act. He even provides an argument why there have to be intrinsically good acts.Footnote 40 In his view, however, the end is the principal object of the interior act, since it metaphysically determines the act of will in the first place. Also, the pleasure of attaining the end is what is principally intended by such an interior act.Footnote 41 His account crucially differs from Scotus’s in that Ockham conceives of all circumstances, including the end and also the judgment of right reason, as partial objects of the interior act, not of the exterior act.Footnote 42
The objects determine the interior act as to its identity: if only one of the objects changes, then the act is no longer the same.Footnote 43 Ockham has a metaphysical reason for conceiving of all circumstances as partial objects of the interior act. This reason relates to the issue of imputability and moral responsibility. Ockham’s point is that the latter presupposes that the act for which an agent can be morally responsible in the first place has to be in the agent’s control, that is, in his power. If an interior act could remain the same while one of the required circumstances changes, then a morally bad, interior act could be made morally good by the occurrence of something that is not in the agent’s power, such as a judgment of right reason.Footnote 44 For instance, the morally rather dubious act of willing to donate to church just for the purpose of obtaining a tax break could be rendered morally good by the judgment that one ought to donate to church for the love of God; since, however, one’s judgments are not in one’s control, one’s acts of will could be rendered morally good by something one cannot control. This would be disastrous, Ockham argues, for in that case someone not worthy of eternal life could become worthy of it (and conversely) by something that is not in his power.Footnote 45 According to Scotus and Ockham, the point is that rational agents, as opposed to natural agents, are able – and obligated – to actively and freely adjust their acts of will to their judgments of right reason: this is what makes interior acts morally good. Therefore, it is possible to interpret Ockham’s account in such a way that the agent, by means of his morally good interior act of willing, not merely intends something as an end, but also intends it as an end in light of his judgment that he ought to intend the end in these circumstances and in this particular way. In this respect, Ockham’s and Scotus’s accounts differ only regarding their conception of circumstances, but not with respect to the fact that their accounts of morally good interior acts can be interpreted in terms of double intentionality.
The structure of an interior act is quite complex, since it includes a multitude of partial objects (Ockham) or at least a multitude of relations to factors such as the end, time, and place (Scotus). Willing to do what one ought to do also implies a kind of multiple intentionality insofar as the agent has to be directed at a multitude of factors (end, time, place) that are not ordered or structured in the way intending something as an end and intending it as an end in light of a normative judgment are.Footnote 46 This complexity corresponds to the specification of content. The content of the act of will, that is, what one wills to do, has to be sufficiently specified in order to actually cause the attempt of doing what one wills to do. For instance, willing to give alms, by itself, is not specific enough to make the agent actually attempt to give alms.
With respect to Ockham’s account, one could worry how one act can have a multitude of objects. Ockham resorts to a kind of constitutive compositionality of acts. All acts are what he calls either incomplex or complex.Footnote 47 Roughly, incomplex acts, such as intuitively grasping particular things, correspond to non-propositional acts, and complex acts, such as of judging that p, correspond to propositional acts. As Panaccio points out, less attention is paid to the fact that Ockham also makes this distinction regarding incomplex and complex acts of will.Footnote 48
Generally, incomplex acts have particular ‘incomplex’ things as their objects, whereas the object of complex acts is itself complex. According to Ockham, any complex act is constituted by its incomplex parts. Thus, any complex act conceptually or logically presupposes some incomplex act or acts as its parts.Footnote 49Incomplex acts are prior insofar as it is impossible that there is a complex act without incomplex constituents. For instance, one cannot think that apples are delicious without entertaining the thought’s constituent parts (‘apples’, ‘delicious’). Ockham turns all the aspects one has to consider in order to attempt to do what one wills into causally efficient partial objects of the interior act of will. Recall that any act of will presupposes an act of the intellect. This act is a partial cause of the act of will.Footnote 50 Thus, one act of will can have a multitude of objects insofar as the content of what one wills is represented by a complex, cognitive act to the agent. Without a representation of what one wills to do, giving alms to the beggar in front of the supermarket for instance, one cannot will, and thus attempt to give alms to the beggar in front of the supermarket. This representation corresponds to the description of the intentional action.Footnote 51
Against this backdrop, I now turn to the moral quality of exterior acts. Scotus writes:
[…] it can be said that an exterior act – that is, a commanded act – has its own moral goodness, distinct from that of the interior, elicited act […]. We established that the moral goodness of an act is the completeness of those features that the agent’s right reason dictates should characterize the act. Now the completeness of the features that ought to characterize an interior act according to right reason is distinct from the completeness of the features that ought to characterize an exterior act. Therefore, there is a distinct moral goodness […].Footnote 52
Scotus holds that an exterior act has its proper moral goodness insofar as the set of features of morally good exterior acts and the set of features of morally good interior acts are distinct (in kind): an exterior act is morally good insofar as it is caused by a morally good interior act, that is, an act that has all the required features enumerated above.
Ockham agrees that an exterior act can be called ‘morally good’ insofar as the interior act that mediately causes them is morally good. This, however, does not make for a proper kind of moral quality. As Ockham puts it in reply to Scotus:
[…] I reply that it is not the exterior act that must have an integrity of circumstances in accord with right reason, but only the interior act. On the contrary, the exterior act needs only to be elicited effectively by a good interior act, and it has no other sort of integrity.Footnote 53
Ockham’s point is that an exterior act is only extrinsically good. This means that the exterior act can change its moral quality while remaining the same act.
The crucial difference between Scotus’s and Ockham’s accounts is that, for Scotus, both interior and exterior acts can be intrinsically good, in their respective ways, whereas for Ockham only interior acts can be intrinsically good, while exterior acts can only be extrinsically good. It should become clear in the next section that this disagreement as to the moral quality of exterior acts has crucial consequences with respect to how exterior acts are thought to be individuated by Scotus and Ockham respectively. Scotus would agree that an exterior act can be individuated by its cause, namely the interior act. After all, that an exterior act is morally good just means that it is caused by a morally good interior act. What is responsible for the proper moral quality of the exterior act, however, can also serve to individuate the exterior act, for if the interior act changes, then the exterior act changes as well. Ockham denies this. I now turn to the problematic case of the change of intention.