Voluntary or Involuntary: Aristotle's Ideas

Topics: Voluntary action, Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle Pages: 3 (923 words) Published: November 4, 2012
In Aristotle’s book The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle goes in depth on the differences between voluntary and involuntary actions. Aristotle poses and the question, as humans, what makes our actions voluntary or involuntary, and when should we be held responsible for our actions? Are there exceptions to the differences between voluntary and involuntary actions in certain scenarios? When can we truly hold an individual responsible for their actions, and are there exceptions for this too? Aristotle makes it apparent that the differences between what is involuntary and voluntary can, at times, be difficult to identify, and often times there is a blurred, fine line between the two. Because of this, many possible scenarios are border-line between being voluntary and involuntary. This causes further dilemma when asked, “If someone’s action cannot decisively be determined to be one of the two, can you still hold the person responsible?” In this paper, I will examine the differences, as described by Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, between voluntary and involuntary actions, and argue when individuals should be held responsible for their actions. In order for us to be able to draw conclusions regarding a person’s responsibility for an action, it is critical that we first are able understand what it means for an action to be voluntary or involuntary. By definition, an involuntary action is something done by force or through ignorance. This definition is altered, however, when Aristotle argues that not all actions done in ignorance are necessarily involuntary. The factor that determines if the action done in ignorance is voluntary or involuntary is regret. If the person regrets the action which was done in ignorance, it was involuntary, but if the person does not regret the action, it cannot be considered completely involuntary. This is where the blurry line between voluntary and involuntary begins. If the person has no regret, the action isn’t completely...
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