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EXTERNAL ACT

The physical or sensibly perceptible side of a human action. It is that which the one who performs the act and others can see or otherwise perceive by their senses. External acts, as such, are neither good nor bad, since they derive their moral value from the internal acts of the will. Nevertheless, external actions are morally good or bad by participation in what a person intends to do internally. They are the normal means for expressing, continuing, intensifying, or of repeating an internal act. Thus Catholic morality does not subscribe to the theory of Kant that morality consists solely in a good will, so that the external physical act is quite outside the scope of morals.

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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