The difference between Kant and Aristotle here can be traced to a difference over the nature of the will. For Kant, the will seems to be something that can be insulated completely from natural influences and inclinations. It is the only thing for which a person can be said to be completely responsible. And this isolated point of pure responsibility is the only proper subject of moral evaluation and hence esteem. Aristotle, on the other hand, has no notion of a point (or realm) of pure responsibility (if, indeed, such a notion makes sense). He is happy to discuss responsibility, which he does extensively, but not in the purified sense that concerns Kant. He praises continence (as well as virtue: NE VII, 1), but he cannot follow Kant in thinking (G 398) there is something more, beyond praise, that is distinctively deserved by virtue. Perhaps, however, we can pursue the issue in a way that abstracts from the difference over the will: Kant is more impressed by the continent person than he is by the person who is virtuous in Aristotle's sense, whereas Aristotle is not.6 Various things
might account for this apparent difference:
Insofar as Kant expresses esteem for the continent person, he seems clearly to be assuming that the person is not responsible for the errant inclinations. One's inclinations act as external obstacles to duty just as much as enemy gunfire or rising floodwaters do. The continent person is heroic. According to Aristotle (NE III, 5), on the other hand, one is responsible, in the long run, for having errant passions, even though one with them cannot immediately be rid of them. The continent person is no more heroic than one who negligently allows the house to catch on fire and then scrambles through the flames to save the child. 6
Or it could be that when Kant imagines the person whose choice aligns with inclination he is imagining that the choice was determined by inclination. Since inclination is not a reliable guide to...
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