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Nicomachean Ethics   


voluntary; the latter extends more widely. For both children and the
lower animals share in voluntary action, but not in choice, and acts
done on the spur of the moment we describe as voluntary, but not as
chosen.
Those who say it is appetite or anger or wish or a kind of opinion do
not seem to be right. For choice is not common to irrational creatures
as well, but appetite and anger are. Again, the incontinent man acts
with appetite, but not with choice; while the continent man on the
contrary acts with choice, but not with appetite. Again, appetite is
contrary to choice, but not appetite to appetite. Again, appetite
relates to the pleasant and the painful, choice neither to the painful
nor to the pleasant.
Still less is it anger; for acts due to anger are thought to be less
than any others objects of choice.
But neither is it wish, though it seems near to it; for choice cannot
relate to impossibles, and if any one said he chose them he would be
thought silly; but there may be a wish even for impossibles, e.g. for
immortality. And wish may relate to things that could in no way be
brought about by one's own efforts, e.g. that a particular actor or
athlete should win in a competition; but no one chooses such things,
but only the things that he thinks could be brought about by his own
efforts. Again, wish relates rather to the end, choice to the means;
for instance, we wish to be healthy, but we choose the acts which will
make us healthy, and we wish to be happy and say we do, but we cannot
well say we choose to be so; for, in general, choice seems to relate
to the things that are in our own power.
For this reason, too, it cannot be opinion; for opinion is thought to
relate to all kinds of things, no less to eternal things and
impossible things than to things in our own power; and it is
distinguished by its falsity or truth, not by its badness or goodness,
while choice is distinguished rather by these.
Now with opinion in general perhaps no one even says it is identical.
But it is not identical even with any kind of opinion; for by choosing
what is good or bad we are men of a certain character, which we are
not by holding certain opinions. And we choose to get or avoid
something good or bad, but we have opinions about what a thing is or
whom it is good for or how it is good for him; we can hardly be said
to opine to get or avoid anything. And choice is praised for being
related to the right object rather than for being rightly related to
it, opinion for being truly related to its object. And we choose what
we best know to be good, but we opine what we do not quite know; and
it is not the same people that are thought to make the best choices
and to have the best opinions, but some are thought to have fairly
good opinions, but by reason of vice to choose what they should not.
If opinion precedes choice or accompanies it, that makes no
difference; for it is not this that we are considering, but whether it
is identical with some kind of opinion.
What, then, or what kind of thing is it, since it is none of the
things we have mentioned? It seems to be voluntary, but not all that
is voluntary to be an object of choice. Is it, then, what has been
decided on by previous deliberation? At any rate choice involves a
rational principle and thought. Even the name seems to suggest that it
is what is chosen before other things.
3
Do we deliberate about everything, and is everything a possible
subject of deliberation, or is deliberation impossible about some
things? We ought presumably to call not what a fool or a madman would
deliberate about, but what a sensible man would deliberate about, a
subject of deliberation. Now about eternal things no one deliberates,
e.g. about the material universe or the incommensurability of the
diagonal and the side of a square. But no more do we deliberate about
the things that involve movement but always happen in the same way,
whether of necessity or by nature or from any other cause, e.g. the
solstices and the risings of the stars; nor about things that happen

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