Aristotle Voluntary Vs Involuntary Essay Research Paper

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Aristotle Voluntary Vs. Involuntary Essay, Research Paper Where Does Voluntary Begin? Nichomachean Ethics by Aristotle attempts to define the meaning of ethics and to create the perfect society as did Plato in The Republic. In Aristotle s attempt at definition he discusses the difference and significance of voluntary and involuntary action. Beginning by defining, Aristotle soon realizes many situations are too complex for just black vs. white terms and he introduces another term; non-voluntary. This leads to discussion of choice and deliberation, bringing his viewpoints into applicable terms, out of philosophy and into everyday life. Before beginning to understand how Aristotle is applicable, his viewpoint must be examined, such as his version of voluntary action. As he says

in Book III of Nichomachean Ethics the terms voluntary and involuntary are used with reference to the moment of action because the initiative in moving the parts of the body which act as instruments rests with the agent himself (p.53). So, a voluntary action is one about which we have power. Such as, what to eat in the morning, brushing teeth or even life altering decisions about jobs and marriage. Most of our everyday actions are voluntary, since we do not often act outside our realm of power. Aristotle tends to agree that most actions are voluntary and from this fact comes much of the praise we receive for our actions, sometimes people are even praised for doing them [voluntary actions], for example, if they endured shameful or painful treatment in return (p.53). If others feel

that an action is worthy or noble they will acknowledge the person s conscious choice of the action and see they receive due reward. In general, Aristotle feels that people are in control of their actions, whether a thoughtful choice is made or not. Here Aristotle makes a distinction, a voluntary action is not necessarily a choice. A choice is a thoughtful decision, as he points out For choice is not shared by irrational creatures (p.58). Children and animals are capable of voluntary action, such as eating, running, communicating, but they are not capable of choice, for choice begins to enter into the moral realm. Choice is an action of a creature that can reason because logic is a necessary ingredient for choice. Only when logical creatures lack knowledge or are under duress do

they move away from choice and voluntary action to involuntary action. Aristotle states his point quite clearly when he says, actions done under constraint or due to ignorance are involuntary (p.52). An action is involuntary when the source of initiative comes from outside, Aristotle use the example of a person carried away by the wind, he is obviously not responsible for his action of moving, this would be an example of involuntary action due to constraint. However, when involuntary actions begin to involve ignorance, Aristotle states the only type of valid ignorance is that in which the agent is unaware of the affect of his action on the thing or person affected. Aristotle would say a drunken man is acting in ignorance, while a man unaware of social customs is acting due to

ignorance. Here is also where the distinction between involuntary and non- voluntary action is drawn. The distinction is found in a man s reaction to his involuntary action. Aristotle feels that an involuntary action due to ignorance is only when the action brings regret or sadness in is aftermath. As he says of the man who feels no remorse, nor yet was he an involuntary agent inasmuch as he feels no sorrow (p.55), this man would be called a non- voluntary agent. Non-voluntary action is when the action causes no regret or pain from its consequences. Actions could range from throwing cargo off a ship in a storm to a serial killer s rampage of murder. These are actions performed under constraint but constraint in such a way that voluntary action is still possible. Aristotle uses