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Catholic Dictionary




Literally "by itself" or "through itself." A very common expression in scholastic philosophy and theology to describe something by reason of what it is in itself or its own nature without reference to its relationship to other things or the circumstances associated with an object or activity. Thus every human act, "per se," is a moral act because it proceeds from the free will, but it may be either morally good or morally bad. The opposite is "per accidens."