previous next
[1225a] [1]

But there is another way in which people are said to act under compulsion and of necessity without disagreement between rational principle and appetition, when they do something that they consider actually painful and bad but they are faced by flogging or imprisonment or execution if they do not do it; for in these cases they say that they are acting under necessity. Possibly, however, this is not the case, but they all do the actual deeds willingly, since it is open to them not to do them but to endure the penalty threatened. Moreover, perhaps someone might say that in some cases these actions are done of necessity and in others not. For in cases where the presence or absence of such circumstances depends on the agent himself,1 even the actions that he does without wishing to do them he does willingly and not under compulsion; but where in such cases the circumstances do not rest with himself, he acts under compulsion in a sense, though not indeed under compulsion absolutely, because he does not definitely choose the actual thing that he does but the object for which he does it; since even in the objects of action there is a certain difference. For if someone were to kill a man to prevent his catching him by groping for him,2 it would be ridiculous for him to say that he had done it under compulsion and of necessity—there must be some greater and more painful evil that he will suffer if he does not do it. It is when a man does something evil for the sake of something good, or for deliverance from another evil, that he will be acting under necessity and by compulsion, or at all events not by nature; and then he will really be acting unwillingly, for these actions do not rest with himself. [20] On this account many reckon even love as involuntary, and some forms of anger, and natural impulses, because their power is even beyond nature; and we pardon them as naturally capable of constraining nature. And it would be thought that a man is acting more under compulsion and involuntarily when his object is to avoid violent pain than when it is to avoid mild pain, and in general more when his object is the avoidance of pain than when it is to gain enjoyment. For what rests with himself—and it wholly turns on this—means what his nature is able to bear; what his nature is not able to bear and what is not a matter of his own natural appetition or calculation does not rest with himself. On this account also in the case of persons who are inspired and utter prophecies, although they perform an act of thought, nevertheless we do not say that saying what they said and doing what they did rested with themselves. Nor yet do we say that what men do because of desire rests with themselves; so that some thoughts and emotions, or the actions that are guided by such thoughts and calculations, do not rest with ourselves, but it is as Philolaus3 said—'some arguments are too strong for us.' Hence if it was necessary to consider the voluntary and involuntary with reference also to acting under compulsion, let this be our decision of the matter (for those who cause most hindrance . . . the voluntary . . .4 as acting under compulsion, but voluntarily).

Now that this is concluded, and as the voluntary has been found not to be defined by appetition, nor yet by purposive choice, it therefore remains to define it as that which is in accordance with thought.

1 Or 'for in those of such acts which it rests with himself to do or not.'

2 i.e. in blind-man's-bluff, μυΐνδα or χαλκῆ μυῖα.

3 Pythagorean philosopher contemporary with Socrates.

4 Some words seem to have been lost here (ἀλλά suggests that they contained a negative).

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (1884)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: