In Book III, Chapter 1 of the collection of his of works, Aristotle continues to explain the idea of virtue and how, when examining it, it is important that one knows the meanings of the words “voluntary” and “involuntary”. Initially, I was unaware that certain actions can be a mixture of voluntary and involuntary aspects, but through Aristotle’s explanation, I was able to understand his conclusions about this belief.

Within the text, Aristotle begins by explaining voluntary actions are more often lauded then those that are involuntary, which are more often pitied. Involuntary actions, he explains, are usually the result of ignorance or some sort of external principle, which would be something forced. Additionally, emotions get involved when fear becomes a deciding factor in what types of actions occur, for example, if one had to sacrifice pride or something else in order to overcome some sort of evil beyond their control. Aristotle theorizes that in such cases, many resulting actions would be voluntary since we are choosing to act upon them willingly, however, if a situation is so dire that it causes us to evaluate our own virtue and values, and is not usually an action we would take part in during any other time or in any other context, then the actions would actually occur unwillingly, or in other words, involuntarily.

At first, I questioned whether it was actually possible for a situation to have the ability to be both voluntary and/or involuntary, for prior to reading this piece, I thought actions could be either one extreme or the other. I had always associated voluntary and involuntary actions with bodily movements, for example, with activities like blinking and digestion being involuntary and activities like running and jumping (and so on) being voluntary. However, according to Aristotle, the technicalities of a situation can cause this mix of voluntary and involuntary actions to occur. Voluntary and involuntary actions go beyond being related to solely bodily functions or movements; certain situational circumstances, especially ones that call our virtue (which is directly related to feelings and actions) into question, can change whether a usual voluntary action would actually be considered involuntary and vice versa, or depending on the situation, if both types of action would be considered applicable.

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