Moral Agency and the Origination of Action

Susan Sauvé Meyer

in Aristotle on Moral Responsibility

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199697427
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732072 | DOI:
Moral Agency and the Origination of Action

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This chapter considers how we are meant to interpret Aristotle's claim that the voluntary agent is an origin of action. Does this claim attribute to the agent sufficient causal control over her actions to justify holding her morally responsible for what she does? And can Aristotle defend it, given that he does not think its truth requires the agent to be responsible for her states of character, and appears to think it is compatible with the action being a fully determinate expression of the agent's character? By appealing to Aristotle's notion of a self-mover, and to the distinction between intrinsic and accidental causation that he has shown to be implicit in his account of voluntariness, we can answer both questions in the affirmative. The conception of moral agency Aristotle uses his account of voluntariness to capture does not attribute to the moral agent causal powers that require the interruption or suspension of the causal sequences at work in the natural world, but it nonetheless captures the distinctive causal role that only morally responsible agents play in that world.

Keywords: Aristotle; voluntary agent; action; self-mover; causation; voluntariness; moral responsibility

Chapter.  8550 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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