Both the voluntary and the involuntary having been delimited, we
must next discuss choice; for it is thought to be most closely bound
up with virtue and to discriminate characters better than actions do.
Choice, then, seems to be voluntary, but not the same thing as the
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
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
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
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.
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