What choice is and how it stands with respect to the voluntary

What choice is and how it stands with respect to the voluntary


Choice, then, seems to be identical with the voluntary, though it is not the same, since the latter is wider; for both children and the other animals partake in it, but not in choice, and things done suddenly are thought to be voluntary, but not chosen.

Again, those who say it is desire or temper or wish or a kind of opinion do not seem to speak rightly. For choice is not common to irrational creatures as well — desire and temper are. And the incontinent man acts with desire, not with choice; on the contrary, the continent man acts reversely, with choice not with desire. Again, desire is opposed to choice, but not to another desire. Also, desire has to do with pleasant and painful, whereas choice neither with painful nor with pleasant. Still less has to do with temper; for things done through temper are least connected with choice.

Nor yet is wish

Nor yet is choice wish, though it seems much close to; for choice is not present in the sphere of the impossible, and if anyone were to say he chose one he would be thought silly. However, we do wish for things that are impossible, e.g. for immortality. And choice is also present in things that are in no way capable of being brought about by us, e.g. to win a particular actor or athlete; but no one chooses such things, but those that he thinks could be done through him. Furthermore, wish is related to the final end, whereas choice to those that contribute to the end, e.g. we wish to be healthy, buy we choose whatever will make us healthy; and we wish to be happy and we say we do, but it is not proper to say we choose to be happy; for, in general, choice has to do with the things that are in our own power.

Nor is opinion

Nor, however, can it be opinion; for we opine on almost everything, none the less on eternal and impossible things or on things within our own power; and opinion is divided into false or true, not into bad or good, while choice is divided rather into these. In general, then, perhaps no one says it is the same with opinion, nor yet is it some kind of opinion; for it is our choice of what is bad or good that makes us of a certain character, not our opinion about something. And we choose to get or avoid such things, yet we form an opinion about what a thing is or whom it is advantageous for or how so, and no opinion at all about getting or avoiding a thing. And choice is rather praised when it is referred to what is proper or right, opinion when it declares the truth. And we choose what we know best, yet we opine on what we know nothing. On the other hand, it seems that the same people do not equally well choose and opine, but some are better at forming an opinion, but on account of wickedness choose what they should not. Now if opinion precedes choice or follows it, this makes no difference; for this is not what we are looking for, but whether it is the same as some kind of opinion.

What, then, or what kind of thing is choice, since it is none of the things mentioned? It seems, however, that it is voluntary; but it is not true that every voluntary is chosen. Is it, then, the product of a previous deliberation? For choice involves reason and thought. It seems so, as even its name denotes what is chosen before other things.

Bibliography: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (1111b.6 to 1112a.17)  
Translation: George Kotsalis