Bonum Ex Integra Cause, Malum Ex Quocumque Defectu

Essay by drahcsterUniversity, Bachelor'sA, March 2002

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The principle "bonum ex integra causa, malum ex quocumque defectu" means "an action is good when it is good in every respect; it is wrong when it is wrong in every respect."

This means that in order that an action may posses in an essential degree -- no action is absolutely perfect -- its moral perfection, it must be in conformity with the law in three respects.

First, the action, considered under the character by which it ranks as an element of conduct, must be good. The physical act of giving another person money may be either an act of justice, when one pays a debt, or it may be an act of mercy or benevolence, as it is if one give the money to relieve distress. Both, of these actions possess the fundamental element of goodness (bonum ex objecto).

The motive, if there is a motive beyond the immediate object of the act, must also be good.

If one pays a man some money that one owes him with the purpose, indeed, of paying one's debts, but also with the ulterior purpose of enabling him to carry out a plot to murder one s enemy, the end is bad, and the action is thereby corrupted. The end which is the motive must also be good (bonum ex fine). Thus, an action, otherwise good, is spoiled if directed to an immoral end; conversely, however, an action which in its fundamental character is bad is not rendered good by directing it to a good end. The end does not justify the means.

The circumstances under which the action is performed should be in entire conformity with reason, otherwise it lacks something of moral completeness, though it may not be thereby rendered totally immoral. We frequently say that something which a person...