More threads by AndyF


I have a question on thought processes.

I include here an excerpt of Augustine of Hippo in regards to how one is culpable of sins of thought. I wish to do further research on his work and would appreciate any constructive psych input on the subject. I'm not too interested with the religious context, and unless it has bearing on this scientific thread, I'd rather steer clear of the religious context as that is food for another forum.

My concern is the credibility and bases in truth in what he is saying, as I hate using reference sources from people who are not factual.

I am interested in the scientific accuracy of this writing in general, and in particular the statement the script below that I separated and outlined in bold.

I am also curious as to how control of the thought is accomplished, and how it differs pathologically from the latter.

"...... Therefore consent to delectation is a mortal sin.
I answer that, There have been various opinions on this point, for some have held that consent to delectation is not a mortal sin, but only a venial sin, while others have held it to be a mortal sin, and this opinion is more common and more probable. For we must take note that since every delectation results from some action, as stated in Ethica Nicomachea x,4, and again, that since every delectation may be compared to two things, viz. to the operation from which it results, and to the object in which a person takes delight. Now it happens that an action, just as a thing, is an object of delectation, because the action itself can be considered as a good and an end, in which the person who delights in it, rests. Sometimes the action itself, which results in delectation, is the object of delectation, in so far as the appetitive power, to which it belongs to take delight in anything, is brought to bear on the action itself as a good: for instance, when a man thinks and delights in his thought, in so far as his thought pleases him; while at other times the delight consequent to an action, e.g. a thought, has for its object another action, as being the object of his thought; and then his thought proceeds from the inclination of the appetite, not indeed to the thought, but to the action thought of. Accordingly a man who is thinking of fornication, ........

may delight in one or two things: first, IN THE THOUGHT ITSELF, secondly, in the fornication thought of.

...... Now the delectation in the thought itself results from the inclination of the appetite to the thought; and the thought itself is not in itself a mortal sin; sometimes indeed it is only a venial sin, as when a man thinks of such a thing for no purpose; and sometimes it is no sin at all, as when a man has a purpose in thinking of it; for instance, he may wish to preach or dispute about it. Consequently such affection or delectation in respect of the thought of fornication is not a mortal sin in virtue of its genus, but is sometimes a venial sin and sometimes no sin at all: wherefore neither is it a mortal sin to consent to such a thought. In this sense the first opinion is true.

But that a man in thinking of fornication takes pleasure in the act thought of, is due to his desire being inclined to this act. Wherefore the fact that a man consents to such a delectation, amounts to nothing less than a consent to the inclination of his appetite to fornication: for no man takes pleasure except in that which is in conformity with his appetite. Now it is a mortal sin, if a man deliberately chooses that his appetite be conformed to what is in itself a mortal sin. Wherefore such a consent to delectation in a mortal sin, is itself a mortal sin, as the second opinion maintains. Q74,A8"
I could be wrong, but my personal experience is that the thought must first present itself for analysis prior to being excluded. In my case the thought is composed of vehicle and cargo (fornication concept?), and I see it as one. In order to not have it presented at all as he desires, another exterior control mechanism would be required to accomplish it.

Also, I have a suspicion the first stage in this process does not exist, and the vehicle is presented as part of the cargo, or that which is thought of, ie: in his anology, the fornication. Also Augustine, by implying the thought without it's cargo is a seperate entity, then a nul thought could present itself. In other words I could now be thinking of nothing, but in my case that does not result as then I could not tell the difference between my thinking a nul thought and not thinking at all.

Any help would be represented.



Daniel E.
I am also curious as to how control of the thought is accomplished, and how it differs pathologically from the latter.

Well, to make it really easy, we could just say we don't really have that much control over conscious thought. In other words, consciousness is more like a user illusion in which subconscious thinking/processing does most of the work. If a person has a gambling problem, for example, it would be crazy to expect them to not have obsessive thoughts about enjoying gambling. The best one could hope for would be that their compulsive gambling behavior gets better over time, such as by quitting cold turkey. Similarly, it would be impossible for most teenage males to not think about sex throughout the day.

What Augustine is talking about reminds me of the infamous Playboy article where Jimmy Carter says he sinned by lusting in his heart. Compare that to Bill Clinton's true adultery, and most people would say Jimmy Carter was as clean-minded as they get.
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