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Reason and CharacterThe Moral Foundations of Aristotelian Political Philosophy$
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Lorraine Smith Pangle

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226688169

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226688336.001.0001

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Knowledge, Choice, and Responsibility for Character

Knowledge, Choice, and Responsibility for Character

Chapter:
(p.65) Chapter 2 Knowledge, Choice, and Responsibility for Character
Source:
Reason and Character
Author(s):

Lorraine Smith Pangle

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226688336.003.0003

In his analysis of voluntary and involuntary action in 3.1-5 Aristotle shows how all actions are shaped by perceptions of good and bad. The difference between the voluntary and the involuntary turns not on the exercise of free will but on the degree to which actions reveal the priorities that define one’s character. Ignorance of facts is a key factor that can render an action involuntary. Yet ignorance is also at play in the most wicked acts that Aristotle calls blameworthy—ignorance of principle. Aristotle presents choice as a technical process of finding means to ends that are not chosen but wished for, so that the differences in character evidently come down to the wishes that determine ends. Yet wishes seem determined by the good as it appears to each. In concluding this section Aristotle insists that virtue and vice are “up to us,” while offering arguments that continue calling into question whether anyone ever knowingly chooses to pursue bad ends or develop a bad character. Raising the possibility that character is determined chiefly by good vision, he upholds moral responsibility in a sense while tacitly conceding serious limits of our freedom to be other than we are.

Keywords:   choice, deliberation, free will, ignorance, involuntary action, moral responsibility, voluntary action, wish

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