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Book 3

1. Virtue however is concerned with emotions and actions, and it is only voluntary feelings and actions for which praise and blame are given; those that are involuntary are condoned, and sometimes even pitied. Hence it seems to be necessary for the student of ethics to define the difference between the Voluntary and the Involuntary1; and this will also be of service to the legislator in assigning rewards and punishments. 1. [2]

It is then generally held that actions are involuntary when done (a) under compulsion or (b) through ignorance;

1 ἑκούσιον and ἀκούσιον are most conveniently rendered ‘voluntary’ and ‘involuntary’; but the word ἀκούσιον suggests ‘unwilling’ or ‘against the will,’ and to this meaning Aristotle limits it in 1.13. There he introduces a third term, οὐχ ἑκούσιον, ‘not voluntary’ or ‘not willing,’ to describe acts done in ignorance of their full circumstances and consequences, and so not willed in the full sense; but such acts when subsequently regretted by the agent are included in the class of ἀκούσια or unwilling acts, because had the agent not been in ignorance he would not have done them.

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