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and also we think that the irrational feelings are just as much a part of human nature as the reason, so that the actions done from anger or desire also belong to the human being who does them. It is therefore strange to class these actions as involuntary.2.

Having defined voluntary and involuntary action, we next have to examine the nature of Choice.1 For this appears to be intimately connected with virtue, and to afford a surer test of character than do our actions.2. [2]

Choice is manifestly a voluntary act. But the two terms are not synonymous, the latter being the wider. Children and the lower animals as well as men are capable of voluntary action, but not of choice. Also sudden acts may be termed voluntary, but they cannot be said to be done by choice.2. [3]

Some identify Choice with (1) Desire, or (2) Passion, or (3) Wish, or (4) some form of Opinion. These views however appear to be mistaken.

(1) The irrational animals do not exercise choice, but they do feel desire, and also passion. 2. [4] Also a man of defective self-restraint acts from desire but not from choice; and on the contrary a self-restrained man acts from choice and not from desire. 2. [5] Again, desire can run counter to choice, but not desire to desire.2 And desire has regard to an object as pleasant or painful, choice has not.3 2. [6]

(2) Still less is choice the same as passion. Acts done from passion seem very far from being done of deliberate choice. 2. [7]

(3) Again, choice is certainly not a wish, though they appear closely akin. Choice cannot have for its object impossibilities: if a man were to say he chose something impossible he would be thought a fool; but we can wish for things that are impossible, for instance immortality. 2. [8] Also we may wish for what cannot be secured by our own agency, for instance, that a particular actor4 or athlete may win; but no one chooses what does not rest with himself, but only what he thinks can be attained by his own act. 2. [9] Again, we wish rather for ends than for means, but choose the means to our end; for example we wish to be healthy, but choose things to make us healthy; we wish to be happy, and that is the word we use in this connection, but it would not be proper to say that we choose to be happy; since, speaking generally, choice seems to be concerned with things within our own control.2. [10]

(4) Nor yet again can it be opinion. It seems that anything may be matter of opinion—we form opinions about what is eternal,5 or impossible, just as much as about what is within our power. Also we distinguish opinion by its truth or falsehood, not by its being good or bad, but choice is distinguished rather as being good or bad.

1 The writer here examines the operation of the Will, which is regarded as essentially an act of choosing between alternatives of conduct. The technical term employed, ‘choice’ or ‘preference,’ has appeared in the formal definition of virtue (2.6.15). In the present passage, cf. 2.9, it is viewed as directed to means: at the moment of action we select from among the alternative acts possible (or expressing it more loosely, among the various things here and now obtainable by our action) the one which we think will conduce to the end we wish. Elsewhere however (3.1.15 and 6.12.8) it is used of the selection of ends, and it is almost equivalent to ‘purpose’; while at 6.13.8 it includes both ends and means (see also 7.9.1). The writer returns to the subject in Bk. 6.2.

2 i.e., you cannot feel two contradictory desires at once (though you can of course desire two incompatible things: you may want to eat your cake and have it; but you cannot strictly speaking at the same time both desire to eat the cake and desire not to eat it). But you can desire to do a thing and choose not to do it.

3 But as good or bad.

4 Greek dramas were produced in competitions (and it is noteworthy that in the Old Comedy at Athens the play itself dramatized a contest or debate).

5 Cf. 3.3 and note.

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