Aquinas: “On the Voluntary and the Involuntary”


Aquinas is a famous philosopher whose work has offered an interesting point of view on human existence. In the third article of On the Voluntary and the Involuntary, the author presents his outlook on the actions people take. Most notably, he examines whether all activities are performed through a will of a man. In addition, the question of whether a choice not to act in a particular situation is considered a voluntary expression of a human’s desires is researched. This paper aims to examine Aquinas’s work, define the terms that the author applies, and state the thesis.

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The thesis of the paper written by Aquinas explores the idea of free will. Thus, the author argues that humans are free to act (voluntary) or to do nothing. It is because people are in charge of their actions (as the author states, humans are masters in regards to what they do). However, it is crucial to establish whether no activity in a specific situation is an act of will. Thus, Aquinas states that voluntariness is conducted by doing something (for instance thinking or planning). In case a person does not want to do a particular thing (for example read a book), the choice not to do it is a voluntary act as well. Through this idea, Aquinas combines performing and not performing actions as essential aspects of human will.

The author utilizes a variety of technical terms in his work. In order to understand the piece correctly, those phrases must be defined. Firstly, voluntariness is the primary theme of the paper by Aquinas, which means the free will to choose what to do. It is the opposite of involuntary actions, in which a person is forced by others (through threats or force) to do something. As Aquinas explains it, the voluntary is a result of one’s will. Furthermore, it should involve an act, which is a crucial component of voluntariness.

The next essential term utilized in the paper is involuntariness, which describes a lack of desire or a choice to avoid action. In addition, Aquinas uses word combinations such as not willing and not acting to illustrate his examples throughout the piece. Not willing refers to involuntary activities, thus describing a choice of an individual not to do something. Not acting is similar as it implies no performance from a person. Therefore, not willing and not acting have a similar premise which is essential for understanding the paper.

The assumptions that Aquinas relies on are stated in the I answer that paragraph. Firstly, voluntary actions are performed through the free will of an individual. Aquinas argues that are two ways in which activities can proceed – direct and indirect. The assumption is essential, as it explains that one’s lack of actions can have indirect consequences. Thus, the assumption supports the central idea of the paper as not performing an act can have outcomes. This idea connects not acting to voluntary activities through combing the indirect results with a choice to avoid doing something. Therefore, the philosopher assumes that voluntariness can be utilized to explain both activity and lack of action.

Secondly, Aquinas assumes that to have no desire can be considered an involuntary act. He examines whether not to will results in not doing something (for instance, whether stating that one does not want to read is the same as saying that one chooses not to read). The two different meanings can be used to illustrate the difference between voluntary and involuntary. Finally, Aquinas states that voluntary actions require knowledge, thus not knowing is an act of will as well.

The assumption is based on the notion that to act one must have an understanding of a situation. Whether a person will comprehend something or not is based on his or her willingness to gain insight (thus requiring a power of will, which is a voluntary action).

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The argumentation should support the conclusion as Aquinas presents examples of voluntary actions that result from one’s will. In addition, the author explains the opposing view of not willing and how the act may have indirect consequences. Thus, the combination of two offers an illustration of the similarities between the notions and proves that not doing something is a choice (and so is choosing to do something). The example of a helmsman in a ship showcases the idea of doing and not doing. The main argument that is utilized in work is that there consequences even in cases where a person chooses to avoid any action. This aspect implies that not doing something is a voluntary act of free will.


Overall, Aquinas in his work presents a critical discussion regarding the topic of human action and its connection to one’s will. The central idea of the piece is that people can choose to do something or do nothing; both would be illustrations of free will. The argumentation that the author utilizes and his examples imply that both types of acts are voluntary and have consequences.

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"Aquinas: “On the Voluntary and the Involuntary”." StudyCorgi, 30 Apr. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Aquinas: “On the Voluntary and the Involuntary”." April 30, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Aquinas: “On the Voluntary and the Involuntary”." April 30, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Aquinas: “On the Voluntary and the Involuntary”." April 30, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Aquinas: “On the Voluntary and the Involuntary”'. 30 April.

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