Omne agens agit propter finem. Every agent acts on account of an end.
To begin, let us focus on statements regarding human action from Thomas Aquinas, the Summa Contra Gentiles [I.II:1:6]: That is to say, every subject acts toward an end that is a good for him.
The act of love is the first of all acts and gives rise to all others.
Thomas asks whether love is the cause of all that the lover does. His reply is brief yet incisive: “I reply that every agent acts for an end. The end, however, is the good which is loved and desired by each thing. Hence it is clear that every agent, whatever it may be, carries out every action from some love.”
The primacy of the person in Aquinas’ “moral universe” is evident. The first affective motion is love (amor). The priority of love holds not only for the passions, but also for the rational appetite or will. Thus love is the most basic motion of the will and the principle of all moral action. The absolutely first appetitive motion in rational beings is the love of persons. It is this love that gives rise to all moral action, whether good or evil, since in all action the agent aims at the perfection of some person, either himself or another. It is no surprise then to find Thomas explicitly stating this position: “The principal ends of human acts are God, self, and others, since we do whatever we do for the sake of one of these.”
BUT: “A subject isolated from sensory stimulus and social interchange begins to hallucinate rapidly and to lose all sense of reality. Sadists who subject prisoners to solitary confinement understand intuitively that the cruelest punishment is to remove a man [or woman] from the community and thereby deprive him [or her] of his [or her] humanity. Confusion results when community is lost.
HEALTH DEPENDS UPON THE CONVICTION THAT OUR ACTIONS COUNT. I remain potent only so long as I get feedback which demonstrates that the force of my action is felt…I [obtain] the knowledge of the resonance of my actions, as well as the joy of knowing that my gifts are received and appreciated.
[I become] a responsible agent, with a sense that the future is open, [and] I understand myself to be essentially in a social context, and therefore my fundamental desires always involve other persons.” –Sam Keen, To a Dancing God