PROHAIRESIS is ‘deliberative choice’. This ancient Greek expression is also translatable as ‘reasoned choice’. In other words, it refers to our ‘free will to choose’ and to the entire sphere of choice itself.

The term goes back to the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristoteles (Aristotle) and it usually means purposive choice. When translating <prohairesis> some scholars use as well ‘volition’ or ‘moral purpose’.

Sokratiko Logo

Epiktetos (Epictetus) makes use of this word for “what distinguishes human beings from animals, something not even the gods can touch” (Discourses 1.1.23). He thinks that only one thing is completely in our power. And it is our own volition (<prohairesis>). In fact, it is the faculty of choice that we use when assessing our impressions. For example, we use <prohairesis> when giving or withholding assent to an impression (<phantasia>).

If someone says bad things about us, this is not bad in itself. Equally, if someone says nice thing about us, this is not good in itself. Such events are externals and are not something we can control. The power of choice allows us to maintain self-control in front of either criticism and praise. This kind of imperturbable attitude is a moral good. Instead, when people worry because of criticism against them (or rejoice thanks to appreciations), that is a moral evil. In fact, it is a mistake that things not in their power (criticism or praise) had value. By behaving in that erroneous way they place a measure of control of their own life in the hands of others.

<Prohairesis> is ‘deliberative choice’. And people should use it to refuse the apparent value of things depending on others.