The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle

By F. H. Peters; Aristotle | Go to book overview

BOOK III.
CHAPTERS 1-5. THE WILL.

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.

1

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.

2

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

3

"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-

4

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

-58-

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