Along with Socrates and Plato, Aristotle is believed to be one of the most ancient Greek philosophers. Being arguably the most educated man of those times, Aristotle had a wide range of interests, like instance logic, ethics, music, and metaphysics. Naturally, this list can be easily continued.
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In his studies, the Philosopher (some people refer to Aristotle in this way) paid much attention to the notion of free will, which had always been a subject of heated debate. Overall, it can be defined as the ability of human beings to make choices without external influence or intrusion. It should be taken into account that many philosophers did not believe in the existence of a free will.
As far as Aristotle is concerned, it is quite possible for us to say that he was very noncommittal about the notion of free will; in fact, he tried to avoid mentioning it in his works. Despite the fact that it was not explicitly stated, it was to a certain degree implied, especially in his “Organon,” the collection of Aristotles works dedicated to logic. According to Aristotle, there are ten categories or the most fundamental forms of existence like for instance substance, quantity, quality, place, relation, time, affection. However, for us, it is of the utmost importance to discuss such a category as action, in Aristotles view, can be defined as the change of another object. He believed that there were three types of actions: voluntary, unwilling or involuntary, and nonvoluntary. As far as moral responsibility is concerned, according to Aristotle, a person can be held responsible for his actions if he was fully aware of the consequences and if he was not compelled to do it. However, there are some specific conditions for ignorance: it can be viewed as a legitimate excuse if a person is not answerable for his ignorance (Ackrill, 99).
The same rule can be applied to compulsion; if the decision is inevitable, a person should not be blamed for the consequences of his actions.
Speaking about Aristotles teacher, Plato, we should say that his conception of free will was to a certain degree different from that one of Aristotles. According to Plato, in the overwhelming majority of cases, our actions are determined by our understanding of the situation. He believed that even the best intentions could be spoiled by ignorance, and it is the only reason for doing wrong. It should be taken into consideration that in Platos opinion, ignorance can be defined not only as a lack of knowledge or education but also as the misinterpretation of such notions as good and evil. Thus, we can say that Plato denied deliberate wrongdoing. As to this aspect, we can say that Plato shared the opinion of his teacher Socrates (Allen, 132).
The main difference between these two philosophers is that Plato believed in deliberate wrongdoing. A person may commit a crime just because he intends to do it because he desires it, and this person is fully aware of his actions.
Thus, it is quite possible for us to arrive at the conclusion that Plato and Aristotle held different views as to the concept of free will and moral responsibility.
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Ackrill J. L.. “Essays on Plato and Aristotle”, Oxford University Press, 2001.
Allen, R.E. “Studies in Plato’s Metaphysics II”. Parmenides Publishing., 2006.