Aristotle on Responsibility for one's character and the possibility of character change
Aristotle's discussion of the voluntary and the involuntary occurs in Book III, chapters 1 through 5, of the Nicomachean Ethics. He is concerned to assess the conditions under which a) an action and b) a state of character can be called voluntary or involuntary. And he wants to make the important point that only voluntary actions and voluntarily acquired states of character are praiseworthy or blameworthy and that men can be held responsible only for these kinds of actions and states of character. In this discussion I am only concerned with Aristotle's views concerning one of the conditions under which men can be held responsible for their states of character although this has implications for his analysis of the nature of human action and the relation of knowledge to the virtues. If, under some conditions at least, men can be held responsible for their states of character, some related questions arise. Is it possible to act contrary to an established state of character? Is it possible to form contrary states of character by performing actions contrary to an established state of character? Is, for example, the habitual coward doomed to live out his state of character or is moral reform possible?
Phronesis: A Journal for Ancient Philosophy, Volume 19, Numbers 1-2, 1974 , pp. 59-65(7)