Friday, July 17, 2015

If We Each Have 2 Opposing Wills Then How Can Our Actions Ever Be Morally Blameworthy?

There's an old latin phrase that says:  "Actus reus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea" which translates to "The act is not culpable unless the mind is guilty."  In America Criminal Law, this sometimes is taken mean that the degree of guilt is lessened when it can be shown that the offender committed the act without "mens rea" which under Common Law is taken to be "malice aforethought."

In short, it's morally blameworthy when you knowingly planned on doing something known to be immoral (i.e. illegal).

But then Paul indicates the Jewish view that we have a good inclination and an evil inclination:

"For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate," Romans 7:15

It's paradoxical that someone could have 2 opposing wills--to knowingly commit a transgression of the law even when they desired to not commit said transgression.  It's like saying there both "is" and "is not" mens rea.  It's logically impossible.

So this is just a musing I was having.  I'm not sure how to understand this verse.  Anyone have any thoughts?


  1. Hebrews 5:14
    "But the strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to to discern both good and evil."

    This post was a start my morning devotion.


  2. "In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values" wikipedia

  3. Cognitive dissonance is a good way to describe it. It's like you go to the piano and play middle "C" but a completely different note comes out of the piano. This would be frustrating. In the same way, Paul is saying he doesn't understand his own actions because he goes to do something good but ends up doing that which he hates.

    But it's also paradoxical. If one's volition is to do good but the result is a bad act, then how can we be held accountable for the bad act? The explanation of course is that we simultaneously intend both good and bad. But this is a paradox.

    Guess it's one of those mysteries we may never understand.

  4. It's the "matrix" lol "Don't try to bend the spoon, that would be impossible, instead, try to understand the truth"

    "what truth?"

    "There is no spoon" lol