Philosophy colloquium, Daniel Wolt

“Two conceptions of voluntary action in the Nicomachean Ethics

By Daniel Wolt (University of Colorado at Boulder, Philosophy)

Date: Tuesday, 19th February, 2019 

Time: 1640-1800 

Place: H-232 

Abstract: It is nearly universally agreed among commentators that according to Aristotle’s account of voluntary action in the Nicomachean Ethics (NE), only voluntary actions are blameworthy. I argue for a qualified rejection of this assumption: some blameworthy actions do not meet the criteria for voluntariness set out in NE 3.1. However, in NE 3.5 and elsewhere, one finds a broader conception of voluntary action, and it is true that an action must count as voluntary on the broader conception in order to be blameworthy. While according to the narrow conception found in 3.1 voluntary actions must be under the agent’s direct control, according to the broader conception an action may count as voluntary by being under the agent’s indirect control. The compresence of these two conceptions in the NE is not simply a matter of sloppiness on Aristotle’s part. Rather, he has good philosophical reasons for employing both. 

About the speaker:  Daniel Wolt completed his doctoral studies in philosophy at Princeton University. His primary research interests are ancient Greek and Roman philosophy and ethics. His research appears in journals such as Ancient PhilosophyApeiron and Classical Quarterly. He is currently Postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the University of São Paulo and lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder.




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