“The intellect is the general faculty of perceiving and knowing, and comprehends the faculties of sense, memory, imagination, judgment, and reason. The perception of the true end of life, and thence of obligation, is an intellectual act; and thus intellect is essential to moral agency or personality.” – James H. Fairchild
The mental activities of a moral agent are impressive and should be appreciated. Moral agency and the corresponding capabilities and capacities are present with human beings because we are created in the image and likeness of God. The ability to grow in knowledge, understanding and wisdom is a tremendous gift. This ability is often neglected. There is a particular process that produces such growth. There are many areas of study in which one might engage (mathematics, philosophy, science, arts, history, etc.). Our current consideration pertains to the mental activity associated with moral agency. For example, on a factual level one might speak of a right or wrong answer to a mathematical equation. There is, in fact, a right and a (many) wrong answer. This is not a moral issue. However, if one purposely chooses a wrong answer to a mathematical equation that involves providing a customer with appropriate change after the purchase of certain merchandise for the purpose of making an additional profit at their expense, it now becomes a moral issue. Wrong change can be factually wrong without being morally wrong.
(Of a moral agent) “He differs from all other beings, not merely in the degree of his intelligence, but in the kind of intelligence with which he is endowed.” – James H. Fairchild
On planet earth, there are many animate (biologically alive) creatures. However, creatures designed to operate on impulse and instinct are not moral agents. In order to operate in the moral realm, one’s mind must possess certain abilities. When a dog instinctively takes a bone belonging to another dog, though there is surely mental activity taking place, it is not a moral act. The mind of the dog does not have the capacity to, and consequently does not, analyze and evaluate whether such an intention and behavior is proper of improper, morally right or morally wrong. Human beings, on the other hand, possess such capacity. Whether and how well they use this mental capacity, is another issue.
Having and using (well or poorly) the ability is one aspect of our discussion of moral agency, where moral truth comes from is another.