Voluntary and Involuntary Actions - Aristotle - Book Three

I.. Voluntary Actions - an act "originated by the doer with the knowledge of the particular circumstances of the act" (3.1, Solomon, 98)

A. Clearly voluntary

B. Related to Compulsion - "mixed" but more voluntary than involuntary - desired and chosen at the time done - involuntary in itself but voluntary in preference to given alternative. Example: tyrant orders you to do something disgraceful while holding your family and threatening to kill them if you do not do it.

C. Related to Ignorance

1. Ignorance of universal principles of right and wrong  (Book 3, Sec 1)

2. Not-voluntary - through ignorance but that for which one is not pained and sorry afterwards.

3. (Perhaps an independent category on the level above) done by reason of (or through) anger or desire (appetite), actions which Aristotle says are not rightly called involuntary. (Irrational passions are not less human than reason. 3.1). "Acting in ignorance" - "when a man is drunk or in a rage he is not thought to act through ignorance, but through intoxification or rage, and yet not knowingly, but in ignorance (3.1, Solomon, 98)."

II. Involuntary Actions - an act done a) under compulsion or b) through ignorance when the agent does not understand the particular circumstances involved and is pained and sorry afterwards

A. Under Compulsion - cause lies outside the agent and agent contributes nothing to the action. Example: being carried away by a whirlwind or kidnappers it was impossible to resist - compulsion painful, not pleasant or noble.

B. Through Ignorance of Particular Circumstances. Example: talking about a subject not known to be forbidden, catapult discharged by mistake, mistake son for enemy or sharp spear for blunt one, killing a man with a drug intended to save him.

Those ignorant of particulars act involuntarily through ignorance of:

1) doer

2) deed

3) "object or person affected by it"

4) "wherewith(e.g. instrument with which) it is done"

5) "that for the sake of which it is done (e.g. protection)"

6) "way in which it is done (e.g. gently or violently)" (3.1, Solomon, 98)