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Ethics

Aristotle

Summary and Analysis Book III: Chapter II - Definition of Choice

Summary

Choice, in the sense of deliberate or preferential choice of a particular mode of action is closely related to virtue. While choice is the result of one's initiative, it is not the same as a voluntary act. Even children and animals can engage in voluntary actions, but they do not exercise choice. An act done on the spur of the moment may be voluntary, but it is not always the result of choice.

Some thinkers identify choice with a form of desire — appetite, anger, or rational wish — or with some kind of opinion, but it must be distinguished from all of these. It is most like a rational wish, but one can wish for the impossible while one cannot choose the impossible, and one can wish for something that does not depend on one's own action, but cannot choose something that does not depend on ones own action. Wish pertains to ends. Choice pertains to means. Together they are the main factors in moral purpose, and moral purpose is the most important element in a virtuous act.