In Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics Book III Chapter 1, moral responsibility of actions is the main topic addressed. More specifically, Aristotle claims that all acts are either voluntary or non-voluntary. A voluntary act is when the agent is responsible for the act. A non-voluntary act takes place under compulsion or from ignorance. However, there are many variations of the two including involuntary acts, acts done from ignorance or in ignorance, acts done under compulsion, mixed acts, and chosen acts. Each variation has its own distinct aspects and significance within the realm of moral responsibility.
A non-voluntary act is defined as acts that take place under compulsion or from ignorance. The term “under compulsion” refers to an external circumstance and not the agent that causes the action. The term “from ignorance” refers to an individual lacking knowledge of particulars, such as important facts. Everything caused by reason of ignorance is non-voluntary. Another key component of a non-voluntary act is that the person performing the action does not feel any regret. An example of a non-voluntary act is a person stepping on a box that their cat was sleeping under and injuring the cat. Although they may have intentionally stepped on the box, he was unaware that his cat was sleeping under it. However, if he never found out about the cat being under the box and getting injured, then the act was non-voluntary. He lacked the knowledge of the particular fact that the cat was under the box, which makes the action from ignorance. Also, he never realized that the cat got injured from him stepping on the box so he does not feel any regret from performing the action. Therefore, his action is non-voluntary.
In addition to non-voluntary acts, there are involuntary acts. Involuntary acts are somewhat similar to non-voluntary acts. They are unintentional and caused by force or ignorance. For an action to be involuntary by force, there must be some external principle causing the action. Also, the person must not contribute anything to the action. For an action to be involuntary by ignorance, the action may be from ignorance or in ignorance. However, the person who performs an involuntary action does feel regret. An example of an involuntary act can also be created from the cat under the box anecdote used previously. If the person stepped on the box that the cat was sleeping under and injured the cat, the action was once again caused by ignorance. However, if the person gains knowledge that they accidentally injured the cat when stepping on the cat and feels regret or remorse for doing so, the action was an involuntary act. The act was unintentional, caused by ignorance, and resulted in the person feeling regret, which makes the act involuntary.
The distinction of non-voluntary and involuntary acts is significant to moral responsibility because typically people are not held responsible for these actions because they are performed unintentionally. ...