What is the difference between voluntary action and non-voluntary action?

The subjects of man’s ethical consciousness are his voluntary actions. The judgements of these voluntary actions depend on his character. He has to choose between various desires and analyse their results only then, reaching some decision. A Psychological analysis of moral deliberation reveals four psychological dements, such as:


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1. Consciousness of various desires.

2. Conflict of opposing desires.


3. Moral analysis of consequences of desires.

4. Judgement.

1. Consciousness various desires:

Moral deliberation starts with a consciousness of desire the desire being a distinct tendency towards an object not a mere appetite. That object fulfils some deficiency we experience in ourselves. We understand that the object will give us satisfaction.


But the human mind has many tendencies and correspondingly numerous desires. We want not only food but also love. Along with the hunger for food, man’s sexual lust is equally intense. In this way, man is conscious of many desires simultaneously.

2. Conflict of opposing desire:

If all the desires are similar or are related to some desire group or universe of desires, then there would be no internal conflict. But if these desires oppose the person’s character or ideals, or are mutually contradictory, a conflict will start.

Such a conflict between the various mutually contradicting desires in man’s mind is a common place occurrence. Each wants to detect the other and satisfy itself.


At one time one desire dominates while at another it is some other desire in the same position. These desires are not alone. It is a conflict of groups or universe of desires. It is a conflict between two ideals of life. For example, take the episode of Rama sending Sita into exile.

How did the ideal lover Rama manage to order Sita’s exile and see it done, when he wondered around in distraught and shed unrelenting tears at the time when Sita had been kidnapped by Ravana. What a furious conflict must have taken place in his mind before he asked Lakshmana to leave Sita in the forest. On one side was love and on otherside question of king’s duty. On one side Rama the lover and on the other, Rama the King. It was duty which triumphed in this conflict, and braving his heart Rama sent Sita into exile.

A similar conflict occurs between desires of enjoyment and desire for study that take place in a student’s mind. It has a point worth nothing that all students cannot sustain their determination to study in such conflict.

3 Moral analysis of results of desire:

In such a state or conflict man becomes stupefied. Before start of the war of Mahabharata when Arjuna felt an internal conflict, he laid down his weapons at Sri Krishna’s feet and refused to take up arms against his own kinsmen.

One cannot do anything till the conflict has passed. People with a weak will cannot control themselves and do mutually contradictory things. But strong willed people deliberate morally upon the results of those conflicting desires. The first important thing in this moral deliberation is to make the subject of these desires very clear. If often happens that man does not know why he wants to do something. By nature man is an escapist and pleasure seeker. He wants to run away from duties. He wants to satisfy his instincts and to possess the objects he likes. Character is acquired with difficulty.

In controlling the mind in order to acquire habits of good thoughts man has to make use of strong will power. Thus, when mutually contradictory desires arise, one should analyse both their reasons and results. Often it happens that some desire, which one does not find harmful, in external appearance, becames a bad habit upon constant repetition.

Sometimes people feel that drinking and gambling once is harmless, but upon analysis if will become evident that both the reason behind it and the result are unethical. Similarly, sometimes the motive behind what we believe to be loved is base lust.

Thus to know the motivating elements behind every desire is of superlative importance. When deliberating upon results one should keep in view both the social and individual aspects. Ethical activity is a compromise of social and individual good.

Besides reasons and results, the analysis of means and ends is also important. Suppose some person is not able to get medicine for his mother. He goes to some wealthy person who refuses to help him.

A desire to stab the person and to remove the money from the safe arises in his mind. Here he is making efforts to serve his mother. His aim is ethical but the means are unethical. Only that desire is good whose activity and result, means and ends are good.

4. Judgement and action:

In this way, having analysed all the desires the individual will be able to see clarly their ethical values. Now the desire with the highest ethical value should be choosen. In this way, after moral deliberation, man reaches some decision. But the desire can not be satisfied without being given a practical form.

Successful moral deliberation removes conflict. But complete satisfaction comes only upon turning the will for fulfilment of desire into practical work.

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