Voluntary And Ignorance In Aristotle's Nicomanchean Ethics

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In his book Nicomanchean Ethics Aristotle explains and differentiates voluntary and involuntary actions and expatiate on all the factor that contribute in deciding on the nature of our actions. The purpose of this differentiation is essential for the study of virtue ethics and more importantly for the study of jurisprudence “to the assigning of both of honors and of punishments” onto individuals. Aristotle firstly describes factors that causes actions to be involuntary or voluntary, such as ignorance, compulsion and choice. The understanding of such factors and their relation to our actions are also important to understand the principles explained by Aristotle. Voluntary actions is defined by Aristotle as actions that have their principle…show more content…
For ignorance, Aristotle divides acts that are done by “reason of ignorance and those which were acted in ignorance”. Compulsory acts would be involuntary because they are done essentially under the influence of external forces such as “the wind or by men who had him [the individual] in their power”, which the principle of the action is not “contributed to the person who is acting or is feeling the passion”. It is valuable to clarify, that compulsory actions are actions that individuals have no power upon. Actions such as the ones done by fear or by threats, explains Aristotle, have a different nature even though it seems to be in itself compulsory. An example of this is when someone threatens a relative of a certain individual to get him to do a specific action. In this case “it may be debated whether such actions are involuntary or voluntary” as it seems that the action itself was done voluntarily with the purpose, in this case, to save someone. Such actions, affirms Aristotle, “are mixed, but are more like voluntary actions” since at that specific time (when the action occurred) the individual has a…show more content…
It is important to notice that since virtue ethics, defended by Aristotle, is based on rationality (which he explains is the only factor that differentiates humans from animals), choice becomes a great deal when debating on human behavior. For Aristotle, everything chosen is voluntary, but not everything voluntary is chosen, and he explains this further with the children example. Children actions are voluntary but not particularly chosen due to their level of rationality. Further Aristotle explains how human choice is not responsible for its results, since choice can only relate to actions and feelings that is in our power. For example, one could not choose to win a competition or to be healthy as he explains but he could choose to do actions that are going to help the individual to achieve the desired outcome. Therefore, if one wishes to be healthy, he can choose to eat healthy and practice sports, but his choice of being healthy just by its own will not predict the outcome of actually being healthy. Conclusively, “choice relates to the means and wish relates rather to the end”. Additionally, Aristotle also expatiates on anger and appetite. These characteristics, for Aristotle are related to pleasure and feelings which are themselves relate to all animals. However, choice is not for that choice is only related to rational beings. Additionally, acts done in anger or in appetite does not
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