Aristotle:Voluntary vs. Involuntary Actions

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Aristotle believed that virtue grew from virtuous actions. In order to achieve happiness, an individual needed to be aware of his or her own actions and learn how to make the right choices. According to Aristotle, three types of actions exist: involuntary actions, nonvoluntary actions, and voluntary actions.

Involuntary actions are performed due to ignorance, or because one is forced to do so. For example, slavery would be considered an involuntary action, because slaves were forced into their actions, and had no choice. However, involuntary actions may change into voluntary ones. Many children who do not enjoy going to school are coerced into doing so by their parents. However, once they reach an older age, continuing their education becomes a choice of theirs, a voluntary action.

Nonvoluntary actions are those that are performed in ignorance, when an individual is not aware of what is right or wrong. Therefore, anyone who commits such an act, is not held responsible for their actions, although they may receive blame or praise. For example, a person who is intoxicated while driving happens to get into an accident and kills an innocent bystander. The person's judgment was impaired, and they were not aware of their actions, however, society blames them for what they did. However, if the same person who was intoxicated had performed a courageous act without knowing so, they would have been praised by others.

Voluntary actions are those that are performed with compulsion or no coercion. A person who is emotionally outraged and performs an act out of anger still acts on his own feelings, and therefore the act is still considered voluntary. A person who gives to the poor, or chooses to rob a bank does so out of his or her own choice. These actions require individual choice, and once one begins to make rational decisions, he comes closer to attaining virtue. ... Continue Reading