The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle

By F. H. Peters; Aristotle | Go to book overview
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1. VIRTUE, as we have seen, has to do with feelings and actions. Now, praise * or blame is given only to what is voluntary; that which is involuntary receives pardon, and sometimes even pity.


An act is involuntary when done (a) under complllusion or (b) through ignorance: (a) means not originated by deor, (b) means through ignorances of the circumstances: voluntary then means originated with knowledge of circumstances

It seems, therefore, that a clear distinction between the voluntary and the involuntary is necessary for those who are investigating the nature of virtue, and will also help legislators in assigning rewards and punishments.


That is generally held to be involuntary which is done under compulsion or through ignorance.


"Done under compulsion" means that the cause is external, the agent or patient contributing nothing towards it; as, for instance, if he were carried somewhere by a whirlwind or by men whom he could not resist.

But there is some question about acts done in order to avoid a greater evil, or to obtain some noble end; e.g. if a tyrant were to order you to do something dis


It must be remembered that "virtue" is synonymous with "praiseworthy habit;" I. 13, 20; II. 9, 9.


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