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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 93, Issue 1, Winter 2019

Steven J. Jensen
Pages 161-171

Proto-Sin
A Case Study

Michael Barnwell has helpfully clarified his criticisms of Aquinas’s explanation of proto-sins. In this response, I further clarify my own defense of Aquinas. Although the sinner lacks one rule, he has at hand another: he is aware that if he chooses, then he must have the rule of his action. This rule is conditional, that is, he is not obliged—categorically—to have the rule at hand; rather, he is obliged to have the rule only if he chooses. An additional clarification concerns the manner in which the sinner is aware that he lacks the rule. More precisely, he is aware that he might not have the rule. In a proto-sin, then, the sinner is aware that if he chooses an action, then that action should be ordered to the end, and he is also aware that the good he desires while acting might not be ordered to the end.

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