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Epictetus On Moral Responsibility For Precipitate Action

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Chapter Summary

This chapter argues that Epictetus’ argument for the ascription of responsibility to precipitate agents hinges on the idea that precipitancy is in itself a condition that one ought to avoid. It is brought out through a comparison between the psychology of precipitate action and the psychology of action of the fully rational agent. The chapter discusses the central thesis of the Normative Argument, namely, that precipitancy is not an exculpating factor, it is in itself a condition that one ought to avoid. In Epictetus, propeteia is a pattern of mental behaviour consisting in the repeated failure to examine critically first impressions before reacting to them. According to the argument, precipitate agents are blameworthy because their precipitancy is something that ought to be avoided. The chapter assumes that Epictetus is using the word ‘perception’ ( aisthêsis ) in an orthodox Stoic sense to denote an impression that has been given assent.

Keywords: aisthêsis ; Epictetus; moral responsibility; normative argument; precipitancy; propeteia; rational agent; Stoic theory



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