Philosophy Weakness of Will
by
Lubomira Radoilska
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0111

Introduction

Weakness of will, or akrasia, is an exciting issue at the heart of moral psychology and the philosophy of mind and action. This articleoffers a problem-centered guide to the relevant literature in contemporary analytic philosophy with reference to the main classical texts. The topics covered include: contemporary versus classical conceptions of akrasia, the possibility of weakness of will and its significance within instrumental and substantive theories of practical rationality, the nature of akratic actions and akratic attitudes, and the plausibility of a theoretical counterpart of weakness of will, such as epistemic akrasia.

Overviews and Anthologies

The most accessible introductions to the topic are offered in Stroud 2008 and Steward 1998: the former focuses on the contemporary debates, whereas the latter gives a good idea of the historical background of the problem, especially in ancient philosophy. Mele 2004 is an excellent guide to the overall debate and will be particularly useful to scholars and postgraduates interested in the putative irrationality of weakness of will. Gosling 1990 contains both an illuminating discussion of the history of the problem of weakness of will and a helpful analysis of contemporary developments, which could be used for undergraduate teaching. Price 1995 explores the related notion of mental conflict in ancient Greek philosophy. The three early-21st-century anthologies cited in this section offer complementary overviews: Stroud and Tappolet 2003 is representative of the state of the art in analytic moral psychology and philosophy of action; Hoffmann 2008 sums up the development of conceptions of weakness of will throughout the history of Western philosophy; and Bobonich and Destrée 2007 discusses classical conceptions of akrasia in relation to the present debates.

  • Bobonich, Christopher, and Pierre Destrée, eds. Akrasia in Greek Philosophy: From Socrates to Plotinus. Philosophia Antiqua 106. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004156708.i-308Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An excellent collection of exegetical essays on ancient conceptions of akrasia in relation to the contemporarydebates.

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    • Gosling, Justin. Weakness of the Will. Problems of Philosophy. London and New York: Routledge, 1990.

      DOI: 10.4324/9780203405239Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The first section outlines the history of the problem, while the second focuses on late-20th-century developments, e.g., a critical analysis of Davidson’s 1970 seminal account of weakness of will (see Davidson 2001, cited under Contemporary Conceptions). The book contains useful summaries at the start and end of each chapter and is suitable for undergraduate students.

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      • Hoffmann, Tobias, ed. Weakness of Will from Plato to the Present. Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy 49. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2008.

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        A fine overview of weakness of will throughout the history of Western philosophy, bringing together textual exegesis and conceptual analysis. The chapters on Plato, Montaigne, and Kant merit special attention. Suitable for postgraduate students.

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        • Mele, Alfred R. “Motivated Irrationality.” In The Oxford Handbook of Rationality. Edited by Alfred R. Mele and Piers Rawling, 240–256. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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          A concise account of the nature and causes of irrationality, discussing akratic action in relation to motivationally biased belief; an excellent guide to contemporarydebates in the field.

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          • Price, Anthony W. Mental Conflict. Issues in Ancient Philosophy. London: Routledge, 1995.

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            An overview of four major solutions to the problem of mental conflict in ancient Greek philosophy, clarifying the difficulties to accommodate instances of hard or clear-eyed akrasia within a rationalist moral psychology. The discussion concentrates on primary sources.

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            • Steward, Helen. “Akrasia.” In Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol. 8, Questions to Sociobiology. Edited by Edward Craig, 19–20. London: Routledge, 1998.

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              This is an accessible introduction to the history of the issue from Socrates to Davidson; it contains helpful summaries of Plato’s and Aristotle’s views. Available online by subscription.

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              • Stroud, Sarah. “Weakness of Will.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2008.

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                This is a comprehensive introduction to the contemporary debates on weakness of will, with detailed presentations of some of the central arguments. Suitable for postgraduate and advanced undergraduate students.

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                • Stroud, Sarah, and Christine Tappolet, eds. Weakness of Will and Practical Irrationality. Oxford: Clarendon, 2003.

                  DOI: 10.1093/0199257361.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                  This collection of eleven original essays offers a comprehensive overview of the contemporarydebates on weakness of will at the intersection of philosophy of mind and ethics. A good starting point for scholars and postgraduates new to the field.

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                  Contemporary Conceptions

                  Most of the works cited in this section are central reference points that have helped shape the contemporarydebates on weakness of will. Davidson 2001 brought the topic into prominence some forty years ago and has been employed as a standard, in relation to which later conceptions of weakness are often defined. To appreciate the argument for the possibility of weakness of will set out in this seminal paper, it is important to look at Hare 2003, which rejects weakness of will as inconsistent with internalism about evaluative judgments and to which Davidson 2001 aims to respond. Watson 1977 offers an influential, skeptical challenge to the conclusions reached in Davidson 2001, whereas Bratman 1979 develops an alternative explanation of how weakness of will is possible, which nevertheless shares key aspects of the conceptual framework set out in Davidson 2001. The conception of strict akratic action developed first in Mele 1987 has become a major focus for subsequent discussions on weakness of will and continues to be so in the early-21st-century. Holton 1999 argues for a change in the terms of debate: while weakness of will is standardly defined as acting contrary to one’s better judgment, the proposed reconceptualization highlights the weak-willed agent’s excessive readiness to revise his or her prior resolutions. Radoilska 2013 compares the standard and the alternative conceptualizations of weakness of will and argues for an integrated account grounded in the classical conception of akrasia. The essays in Stroud and Tappolet 2003 offer an excellent overview of the variety and richness of further contemporary conceptions of weakness of will.

                  • Bratman, Michael. “Practical Reasoning and Weakness of the Will.” Noûs 13.2(1979): 153–171.

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                    A midway position between extreme externalism and extreme internalism, according to which full-blown actions involve, but are not identical to, the conclusion of a piece of evaluative practical reasoning; a further step of practical reasoning is needed to link evaluation to action, and this is where akrasia takes place. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                    • Davidson, Donald. “How Is Weakness of the Will Possible?” In Essays on Actions and Events. 2d ed. By Donald Davidson, 21–42. Oxford: Clarendon, 2001.

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                      Originally published in 1970, this seminal paper argues for the possibility of weakness of will, which it explains as an action against an agent’s “allthingsconsidered,” rather than unconditional or sans phrase evaluative judgment. A mustread for anyone interested in the contemporarydebates on weakness of will and the analytic scholarship on akrasia.

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                      • Hare, Richard. The Language of Morals. Oxford: Clarendon, 2003.

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                        A rejection of the possibility of weakness of will based on internalism about moral judgments, in particular, and evaluative judgments, in general. This book helps clarify the significance of weakness of will for metaethics and moral psychology. Chapter 11 is of particular interest. Originally published in 1952.

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                        • Holton, Richard. “Intention and Weakness of Will.” Journal of Philosophy 96.5 (1999): 241–262.

                          DOI: 10.2307/2564667Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                          An original reinterpretation of weakness of will as an excessive readiness to revise one’s intentions instead of following them through. On this view, weakness of will is separate and more fundamental than akrasia, a term Holton reserves for acting against one’s better judgment. Available online by subscription.

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                          • Mele, Alfred R. Irrationality: An Essay on Akrasia, Self-Deception, and Self-Control. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

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                            A major focus of the debates on weakness of will in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, this book develops an account of strict akratic action as free, intentional, and uncompelled, yet performed against an agent’s better judgment at the time of action.

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                            • Radoilska, Lubomira. Addiction and Weakness of Will. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

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                              The book proposes an integrated account of weakness of will and addiction, according to which both phenomena derive from akrasia as valuing without intending, while intending without valuing.

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                              • Stroud, Sarah, and Christine Tappolet, eds. Weakness of Will and Practical Irrationality. Oxford: Clarendon, 2003.

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                                The essays of this collection represent a variety of conceptions of weakness of will and explore the possible interactions between this and other central topics in moral psychology and the philosophy of mind and action, e.g., freedom of will, rationality, and emotion.

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                                • Watson, Gary. “Skepticism about Weakness of Will.” Philosophical Review 86.3 (1977): 316–339.

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                                  This is an influential critique of the mainstream conception of weak-willed action as free, intentional, and uncompelled. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                  Classical Ideas

                                  Plato’s and Aristotle’s theories of akrasia are of major philosophical interest in their own right; furthermore, their influence can be readily felt in the contemporarydebates on this topic. Protagoras and Nicomachean Ethics, Book VII are the two main texts presenting their respective positions—the first rejecting, the second defending the possibility of akrasia. It is also well worth consulting Republic, Book IV that arguably sets out Plato’s revised view of akrasia. The essays in Bobonich and Destrée 2007 comment on these two classical conceptions of akrasia and their ancient posterity, the focus of most contributions being Plato. Charles 1984 is an important book-length inquiry, which reconstructs Aristotle’s theory within a contemporary analytic framework, a methodology already pursued in Wiggins 1979. Broadie 1994 has the merit to lay out some significant differences between the underlying assumptions of classical and contemporary approaches to weakness of will. This comparative perspective is further developed in the essays collected in Hoffmann 2008.

                                  • Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Edited and translated by Roger Crisp. Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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                                    In Book VII, Aristotle responds to Socrates’ challenge in Protagoras and argues for the possibility of akrasia as a distinct, blameworthy character disposition. A mustread and an implicit reference point for most contemporary accounts of weakness of will.

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                                    • Bobonich, Christopher, and Pierre Destrée, eds. Akrasia in Greek Philosophy: From Socrates to Plotinus. Philosophia Antiqua 106. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007.

                                      DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004156708.i-308Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                      Exegetical essays on the nature and ethical significance of akrasia in ancient philosophy with an emphasis on Plato and Aristotle; however, later schools of thought, e.g., Stoicism, are also given due consideration.

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                                      • Broadie, Sarah. “Another Problem of Akrasia.” International Journal of Philosophical Studies 2.2 (1994): 229–242.

                                        DOI: 10.1080/09672559408570792Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        The paper draws attention to an important feature of classical conceptions of akrasia, which is often overlooked: unlike contemporary authors, ancient philosophers took akrasia to be primarily a conflict between reason and passions. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                        • Charles, David. Aristotle’s Philosophy of Action. London: Duckworth, 1984.

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                                          A detailed reconstruction of Aristotle’s theory of action in relation to contemporary discussions. Aristotle’s view on akrasia is contrasted with Davidson’s conception of weakness of will (see Davidson 2001, cited under Contemporary Conceptions).

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                                          • Hoffmann, Tobias, ed. Weakness of Will from Plato to the Present. Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy 49. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2008.

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                                            Thirteen original essays bringing together historical and systematic approaches to major conceptions of weakness of will, both classical and contemporary. Suitable for postgraduate students.

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                                            • Plato. Republic. 2d ed. Translated by G. M. A. Grube. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1992.

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                                              Unlike Protagoras, Book IV of this dialogue acknowledges the possibility of acting contrary to one’s knowledge of the right course of action. Akrasia is then explained in terms of inner struggle within a divided soul, whereby appetites overpower both reason and spirit.

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                                              • Plato. Protagoras. Edited and translated by Nicholas Denyer. Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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                                                In this dialogue (see especially pp. 352b–358d), Socrates rejects the possibility of akrasia conceived as performing, for the sake of pleasure, an action that an agent knows to be wrong; putative akratic actions are explained away as mistakes about the right thing to do.

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                                                • Wiggins, David. “Weakness of Will, Commensurability, and the Objects of Deliberation and Desire.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 79 (1979): 251–277.

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                                                  Expanding on Aristotle’s account, it is argued that weak-willed agents intentionally choose what they know to be a worse option when they could choose a better one; however, the values of these options are different in kind so that choosing the better would still lead to some uncompensated loss. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                  The Possibility of Weakness of Will

                                                  The question whether weakness of will is possible—and, if so, how—has dominated the debates to a considerable extent. Davidson 2001 is arguably the most prominent defense of the possibility of weakness of will. It responds to Hare 2003, according to which weakness of will in the strict sense is conceptually impossible. Watson 1977 is another influential skeptical argument with respect to weakness of will, which contemporary explanatory accounts, such as Mele 2012 and Tenenbaum 2007 aim to address: the former by developing a conception of strict akratic action as free, intentional, and uncompelled; the latter by putting forward the notion of oblique (as opposed to direct) cognition of the good, which allows for an akratic split between evaluation and motivation. Audi 1979 also aims to explain the possibility of weakness of will; however, unlike most accounts that focus exclusively on the possibility of weak-willed actions, it pays equal attention to weakness of will at the level of intentions and other attitudes. Holton 2003 and MacIntyre 2008 challenge the underlying assumption of the debate above: albeit from different perspectives, both papers reach the conclusion that strength of will or inner consistency is the phenomenon in need of philosophical explanation, whereas weakness of will is all too common and unmysterious.

                                                  • Audi, Robert. “Weakness of Will and Practical Judgment.” Noûs 13.2 (1979): 173–196.

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                                                    The main function of the will as identified by this influential paper is to keep our actions, intentions, and predominant wants in accordance with our practical judgments. So, weakness of will, or acting in discord with one’s practical judgment, may also take place at the level of intentions and attitudes. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                    • Davidson, Donald. “How Is Weakness of the Will Possible?” In Essays on Actions and Events. 2d ed. By Donald Davidson, 21–42. Oxford: Clarendon, 2001.

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                                                      According to this now-classic paper (first published in 1970), weakness of will is possible because an akratic agent’s practical judgments, although irrational, are not contradictory: the course of action the akratic agent judges to be better, yet fails to perform, is taken to be better “allthingsconsidered,” not sans phrase or unconditionally.

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                                                      • Hare, Richard. The Language of Morals. Oxford: Clarendon, 2003.

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                                                        A central argument aiming to establish that weakness of will in the strict sense is conceptually impossible: if we sincerely judge that we ought to perform an action, then we are ipso facto motivated to perform it. See in particular chapter 11. Originally published in 1952.

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                                                        • Holton, Richard. “How is Strength of Will Possible?” In Weakness of Will and Practical Irrationality. Edited by Sarah Stroud and Christine Tappolet, 39–67. Oxford: Clarendon, 2003.

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                                                          It is argued that weakness of will is the unreasonable revision of one’s prior resolutions due to strong contrary inclinations. Conversely, strength of will is conceived as the successful exercise of one’s faculty of willpower aimed at preventing such revisions.

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                                                          • MacIntyre, Alasdair. “Conflicts of Desire.” In Weakness of Will from Plato to the Present. Edited by Tobias Hoffmann, 276–292. Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy 49. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2008.

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                                                            A powerful challenge to the assumption that weakness of will is atypical and in need of special explanation. Instead, it is argued that profound, unresolved conflicts of desire resulting in weak-willed actions are the standard human condition.

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                                                            • Mele, Alfred R. Backsliding: Understanding Weakness of Will. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

                                                              DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199896134.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              Anew development of Mele’s influential argument against skepticism about weakness of will according to which the possibility of strict akratic actions is fully accounted for in terms of freedom and contrariness to one’s better judgment at the time of action (a single-judgment account), rather than unreasonable change of mind (a two-judgment account).

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                                                              • Tenenbaum, Sergio. Appearances of the Good: An Essay on the Nature of Practical Reason. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

                                                                DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511498855Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                An Aristotelian conception of weakness of will, explaining the phenomenon in terms of a split between evaluation and motivation due to an akratic agent’s oblique and thus unstable knowledge of the better course of action as the one that is worth pursuing. See, in particular, chapter 7.

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                                                                • Watson, Gary. “Skepticism about Weakness of Will.” Philosophical Review 86.3 (1977): 316–339.

                                                                  DOI: 10.2307/2183785Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                  A formidable challenge to the notion of free action contrary to one’s better judgment. Its thrust is to show that weakness of will amounts to inability to resist some temptations, akin to compulsion. This paves the way for two-judgment accounts, according to which weakness of will is a kind of unreasonable change of mind. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                  The Irrationality of Weakness of Will

                                                                  Weakness of will is often considered as a paradigm case of practical irrationality; however, there is persistent disagreement on how best to account for this. For instance, Davidson 2004 explains the irrationality of weakness of will in terms of mindpartitioning, whereas Bratman 1979 interprets weak-willed actions as conclusions of faulty practical reasoning, and Mele 2012 points at contrariness to the agent’s better judgment at the time of action. Korsgaard 1997 and Wallace 2001 look specifically at different failures of instrumental rationality associated with weakness of will, whereas McIntyre 2006 contrasts these with possible failures of substantive rationality. The underlying distinction between internal and external standards of rationality against which a weak-willed action can be judged is the topic of Wedgwood 2003. Audi 1990 challenges the central assumption that weakness of will is necessarily irrational and draws attention to weak-willed actions that seem to defy it.

                                                                  • Audi, Robert. “Weakness of Will and Rational Action.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 68.3 (1990): 270–281.

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                                                                    This paper makes a strong case against the prevalent assumption that weak-willed actions are necessarily irrational. It looks into cases where the agent’s better judgment contravened by an akratic action is itself irrational, or at odds with this agent’s overall commitments and projects. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                    • Bratman, Michael. “Practical Reasoning and Weakness of the Will.” Noûs 13.2 (1979): 153–171.

                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/2214395Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                      An influential account of weak-willed actions as conclusions of faulty practical reasoning flowing from evaluative premises. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                      • Davidson, Donald. “Paradoxes of Irrationality.” In Problems of Rationality. By Donald Davidson, 169–188. Oxford: Clarendon, 2004.

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                                                                        Originally published in 1982, this paper sets out the hypothesis of mindpartitioning to explain two instances of irrationality by a person’s own lights: weakness of will and self-deception. The key distinction at work is between holding a contradictory proposition and holding separately two mutually exclusive propositions.

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                                                                        • Korsgaard, Christine. “The Normativity of Instrumental Reason.” In Ethics and Practical Reason. Edited by Garrett Cullity and Berys Gaut, 215–254. Oxford: Clarendon, 1997.

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                                                                          An influential paper arguing that the normativity of instrumental reason—willing to take the means that are necessary for achieving one’s ends—is constitutive of having a will and that this insight is only preserved within a neo-Kantian framework; for, alternatives are unable to explain what makes weak-willed actions irrational.

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                                                                          • McIntyre, Alison. “What Is Wrong with Weakness of Will?” Journal of Philosophy 103.6 (2006): 284–311.

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                                                                            A sophisticated account of weakness of will as a dual failure: for, akratic agents not only fail to be resolute (procedural failure), they also fail to do what they have most reason to do (substantive failure). Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                            • Mele, Alfred R. Backsliding: Understanding Weakness of Will. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

                                                                              DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199896134.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                              This book offers a newdefense of Mele’s influential thesis that strict akratic actions are irrational because they are free, yet contrary to one’s better judgment at the time of action. It addresses newchallenges according to which weakness of will is a kind of unreasonable change of mind.

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                                                                              • Wallace, R. Jay. “Normativity, Commitment, and Instrumental Reason.” Philosophers Imprint 1.3 (2001): 1–26.

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                                                                                The paper posits a capacity for active self-determination, beyond a belief-desire model of human motivation. It explains the possibility of volitional commitment to an end one does not really endorse as evidenced by well-planned akratic actions.

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                                                                                • Wedgwood, Ralph. “Choosing Rationally and Choosing Correctly.” In Weakness of Will and Practical Irrationality. Edited by Sarah Stroud and Christine Tappolet, 201–229. Oxford: Clarendon, 2003.

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                                                                                  The paper distinguishes between internal and external standards of rationality and argues that the latter, or choosing correctly, is more fundamental than the former, or choosing consistently. This recognitional view of practical reason is linked to Aristotle’s philosophy and contrasted with a constructivist or neo-Kantian view.

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                                                                                  Akrasia and the Guise of the Good

                                                                                  The thesis that pursuing an end implies perceiving it as good in some respect—hence, the term “the Guise of the Good,” by which it is frequently referred to following Velleman 1992—seems to be at odds with the notion of weak-willed actions as performed against one’s better judgment. This apparent tension is typically resolved in one of the following ways: the first is to argue that the Guise of the Good offers a misleading model of intentional action, to which weakness of will provides a clear counterexample; the second is to show that weakness of will is consistent with the Guise of the Good. Stocker 1979 and Velleman 1992 are fine examples of the former strategy, Tenenbaum 2007 and Raz 2011 of the latter. Radoilska 2013 argues that akratic actions are performed, albeit unsuccessfully, under the Guise of the Good.

                                                                                  • Radoilska, Lubomira. Addiction and Weakness of Will. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

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                                                                                    The book offers an Aristotelian model of action as actualization suggesting that akratic actions, although performed under the Guise of the Good, are defined by an inherent tension between success as production and success as assertion. In this sense, they are necessarily less than successful.

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                                                                                    • Raz, Joseph. “On the Guise of the Good.” In From Normativity to Responsibility. By Joseph Raz, 59–84. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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                                                                                      The thesis that we intend under the Guise of the Good is qualified and defended in a series of thought experiments, with an emphasis on weak-willed actions.

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                                                                                      • Stocker, Michael. “Desiring the Bad: An Essay in Moral Psychology.” Journal of Philosophy 76.12 (1979): 738–753.

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                                                                                        An influential critique of the thesis that pursuing an end implies perceiving it as good in some respect; this thesis is what, according to many philosophers, makes weakness of will an interesting challenge.

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                                                                                        • Tenenbaum, Sergio. Appearances of the Good: An Essay on the Nature of Practical Reason. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511498855Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          The chapter on akrasia (chapter 7) draws a distinction between direct and oblique evaluative cognitions. Akrasia becomes possible when an agent’s better judgment is of the latter type and so can be overturnby the more vivid, albeit misleading, appearance of the akratic course of action as valuable.

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                                                                                          • Velleman, David. “The Guise of the Good.” Noûs 26.1 (1992): 3–26.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.2307/2215684Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            The article challenges the idea that all motivation to act has an implicit evaluative component; weakness of will is offered as a clear counterexample. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                            Akrasia and Intentionality

                                                                                            Weak-willed actions are considered as intentional on many accounts. Yet, it remains unclear whether their intentionality is best understood with reference only to the intention, with which an akratic agent acts or, alternatively, as involving a conflict between this and a prior intention to act. The latter approach is set out in Bratman 1999, which conceptualizes weakness of will as a problem of planning agency over time; it is further developed in Holton 2009 and Dodd 2009. The former is a book-length inquiry arguing that weakness of will amounts to unwarranted readiness to revise one’s prior resolutions—a category of intentions at the heart of planning agency. The latter paper builds on this core idea, but concludes that the resolution, which a weak-willed action intentionally goes against, is still held by the weak-willed agent at the time of action. Mele 2010 challenges this general approach to weakness of will, and in particular Holton 2009, by arguing that instances of superfluous revision of one’s prior resolutions to act are peripheral cases of weakness of will, and may be fully accounted for with reference only to the intention, with which an akratic agent acts—on the model of strict akratic action. Radoilska 2012 identifies different kinds of failures of intentional agency that may be involved in weakness of will and concludes that at least some weak-willed actions are preintentional.

                                                                                            • Bratman, Michael. Faces of Intention: Selected Essays on Intention and Agency. Cambridge Studies in Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

                                                                                              DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511625190Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                              This collection of essays focuses on intention as having a plan, as opposed to merely having a goal. Weakness of will is conceptualized as affecting planning agency over time rather than isolated actions contrary to one’s better judgment.

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                                                                                              • Dodd, Dylan. “Weakness of Will as Intention-Violation.” European Journal of Philosophy 17.1 (2009): 45–59.

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                                                                                                This article builds on the Holton 2009 account of weakness of will; it argues that weakness of will occurs when someone continues to have a prior intention while acting intentionally against it. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                • Holton, Richard. Willing, Wanting, Waiting. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199214570.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  An account of resolution—a special kind of intention to act, supported by a second-order intention not to abandon the planned course of action in the face of anticipated contrary inclinations. On this account, weakness of will is a failure to hold on to one’s resolution because of the contrary inclinations anticipated by this resolution.

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                                                                                                  • Mele, Alfred R. “Weakness of Will and Akrasia.” Philosophical Studies 150.3 (2010): 391–404.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1007/s11098-009-9418-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    The paper argues that Holton’s notion of weakness of will—unreasonable revision of a prior resolution—is not an alternative to, but a special case of akrasia, a free and intentional action contrary to one’s better judgment. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                    • Radoilska, Lubomira. “Akrasia and Ordinary Weakness of Will.” Tópicos 43 (2012): 25–50.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/2024717Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      A discussion of the kinds of failures of intentional agency involved in weakness of will, arguing that some akratic actions are best understood as preintentional.

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                                                                                                      Freedom and Weakness of Will

                                                                                                      Are weak-willed actions free? This question provides another focal point in the debates on weakness of will. Pears 1982, Mele 1986, and Mele 2012 answer this question in the affirmative. In so doing, Pears 1982 introduces the important notion of motivated irrationality and contrasts freedom of action with that of belief. Conversely, Mele 1986 addresses the charge that, since weakness of will has an apparent element of irresistibility, weak-willed actions are unfree—a charge set out in Pugmire 1982. Mele 2012 focuses on challenges, such as Watson 2004, according to which weak-willed actions cannot be free in a meaningful sense since they are effectively compelled. See also the Contrast with Compulsion. Frankfurt 1971 is an influential background paper introducing a distinction between freedom of will and freedom of action, which plays an important role in the relevant literature.

                                                                                                      • Frankfurt, Harry. “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.” Journal of Philosophy 68.1 (1971): 5–20.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/2024717Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        The distinction between freedom of action and freedom of will that this seminal paper introduces informs many discussions on whether weak-willed actions are free, and if so, whether weakness of will is at odds with freedom of will. Available online by subscription.

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                                                                                                        • Mele, Alfred R. “Is Akratic Action Unfree?” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 46.4 (1986): 673–679.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/2107677Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          The paper argues against the charge that akrasia involves irresistible desires and concludes that akratic actions are free, since akratic agents are able to develop some strategies of what Mele calls “skilled resistance”if their “brute resistance”proves insufficient. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                          • Mele, Alfred R. Backsliding: Understanding Weakness of Will. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199896134.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            This book presents an important development of Mele’s influential account of weakness of will. It defends the claim that strict akratic actions are free and uncompelled from challenges based on conceptual arguments and empirical evidence.

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                                                                                                            • Pears, David F. “Motivated Irrationality.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes 56 (1982): 157–178.

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                                                                                                              The paper argues that the recognized irrationality of an action is less of an obstacle to performing this actionthan the recognized irrationality of a belief is an obstacle to forming this belief. This is because the kind of freedom we have over actions does not extend to beliefs. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                              • Pugmire, David. “Motivated Irrationality.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes 56 (1982): 179–196.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199272273.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                This is a critical response to the disanalogy between weakness of will and self-deception drawn in Pears 1982. It proceeds to show that “last-ditch akrasia”is not avoidable, but in fact irresistible, and so, not that dissimilar to irrational beliefformation. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                • Watson, Gary. Agency and Answerability: Selected Essays. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199272273.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  The essays of this collection present weakness of will as a normative, rather than a purely descriptive, concept. It is argued that weak-willed actions may be seen as compelled and, in a sense, unfree; yet, they are full-blown actions, for they attract an agent’s full responsibility.

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                                                                                                                  The Contrast with Compulsion

                                                                                                                  A reliable distinction between weakness of will and compulsion is often considered as essential to a viable notion of weakness of will. Mele 2002, Smith 2003, and Wallace 1999 exemplify this strategy, for which addiction provides a test case: if weakness of will is categorically different from compulsion, weak-willed actions and addiction-motivated behaviors could be successfully separated out. Alternatively, the difference between the two would be one of degree, an approach consistently developed in Watson 2004 and inspired in Plato 1992, where weakness of will is presented as a kind of compulsion. Radoilska 2013 proposes an integrated account of addiction and weakness of will as secondary failures of intentional agency. Williams 1995 is an instructive background paper: it sets out the distinction between moral and psychological incapacities and, in so doing, helps specify the relevant sense of compulsion. See also Contemporary Conceptions and Freedom and Weakness of Will.

                                                                                                                  • Mele, Alfred R. “Akratics and Addicts.” American Philosophical Quarterly 39.2 (2002): 153–167.

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                                                                                                                    The paper aims to address the worry that strict akratic actions cannot be reliably distinguished from compelled actions against one’s better judgment. The thought is that skeptics are unable to account for the clear-cut contrast between the phenomena of weakness of will and addiction. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                    • Plato. Republic. 2d ed. Translated by G. M. A. Grube. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1992.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1093/0199257361.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      The case of Leontius, in Book IV, speaks in favor of a notion of akrasia close to compulsion, whereby strong appetites overpower reason and spirit.

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                                                                                                                      • Radoilska, Lubomira. Addiction and Weakness of Will. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

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                                                                                                                        The book compares weak-willed actions and addiction-motivated behaviors as secondary failures of intentional agency, and explains the sense of compulsion associated with addiction but not weakness of will by the fact that only addiction turns out to be devoid of pleasure.

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                                                                                                                        • Smith, Michael. “Rational Capacities, or: How to Distinguish Recklessness, Weakness, and Compulsion.” In Weakness of Will and Practical Irrationality. Edited by Sarah Stroud and Christine Tappolet, 17–38. Oxford: Clarendon, 2003.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/0199257361.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          The paper proposes a distinction between weak-willed and compelled actions, grounded in a possible-worlds analysis of an agent’s exercise of his or her rational capacities. The thrust is to explain why responsibility is incurred for weak-willed, but not compelled actions.

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                                                                                                                          • Wallace, R. Jay. “Addiction as Defect of the Will: Some Philosophical Reflections.” Law and Philosophy 18.6 (1999): 621–654.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511621246.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            The central claim of this paper is that, unless we posit a capacity to form intentions over and above higher-order volitions, we cannot distinguish between addiction and compulsion on the one hand, and weakness of will on the other. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                            • Watson, Gary. Agency and Answerability: Selected Essays. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199272273.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              Weakness of will is explored in connection with other phenomena where evaluation and motivation seem to be equally misaligned, e.g., addiction and compulsion.

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                                                                                                                              • Williams, Bernard. “Moral Incapacity.” In Making Sense of Humanity: And Other Philosophical Papers, 1982–1993. By Bernard Williams, 46–55. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511621246.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                The paper introduces the notion of moral incapacity, a limitation on what an agent can attempt to do knowingly. This limitation flows from his or her evaluative commitments as opposed to psychological incapacities, such as phobia and compulsion.

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                                                                                                                                The Role of Temptation

                                                                                                                                An intuitive way of thinking about weakness of will is in terms of a failure to cope with temptation. This approach goes back to Aristotle 2000, of which MacIntyre 2008 offers a contemporary development. The notion of temptation also plays an important role in conceptions that link weakness of will to shortcomings of planning agency, and in particular, that of failing to put in place mechanisms for resisting anticipated, yet unwanted distractions. Bratman 1999 and Elster 1984 have pioneered this approach, which has been further developed in Holton 2009 and Radoilska 2012. Levy 2011 provides an interesting counterpoint, for it reaches skeptical conclusions about the notion of weakness of will by reflecting on the phenomenology of temptation.

                                                                                                                                • Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Edited and translated by Roger Crisp. Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511802058Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  According to Book VII, akratic actions are never isolated, but always form a pattern of behavior, for the relevant failure in the face of temptations is taking place over time.

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                                                                                                                                  • Bratman, Michael. “Toxin, Temptation, and the Stability of Intention.” In Faces of Intention: Selected Essays on Intention and Agency. By Michael Bratman, 58–90. Studies in Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511625190.004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    This article distinguishes planning agency from merely purposive agency and clarifies the significance of prior plans and their stability in the face of various kinds of temptations for successful agency over time.

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                                                                                                                                    • Elster, Jon. Ulysses and the Sirens: Studies in Rationality and Irrationality. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2010.00424.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      An influential book focusing on anticipated weakness of will and various other kinds of inconsistencies, apparently known as such to the person who exhibits them, e.g., self-deception. First published in 1979.

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                                                                                                                                      • Holton, Richard. Willing, Wanting, Waiting. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199214570.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        The book develops a conception of weakness of will as a failure to resist anticipated temptation.

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                                                                                                                                        • Levy, Neil. “Resisting ‘Weakness of the Will.’” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82.1 (2011): 134–155.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2010.00424.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          Drawing on experimental evidence from cognitive and social psychology, the paper concludes that the concept of weakness of the will is unhelpful, for it neither captures well the relevant phenomena, nor facilitates the practical purpose of improving self-control. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                          • MacIntyre, Alasdair. “Conflicts of Desire.” In Weakness of Will from Plato to the Present. Edited by Tobias Hoffmann, 276–292. Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy 49. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2008.

                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511802058Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            An account of inconsistent volitions, including akratic ones as an implicit background of our intentional agency, rather than an exception. On this view, rational action is best understood on the model of overcoming temptation.

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                                                                                                                                            • Radoilska, Lubomira. “Autonomy and Ulysses Arrangements.” In Autonomy and Mental Disorder. Edited by Lubomira Radoilska, 252–280. International Perspectives in Philosophy and Psychiatry. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1093/med/9780199595426.003.0042Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              The paper explores different kinds of foreseeable failures of self-control due to temptations experienced as irresistible at the time of action; it brings together compelled and akratic actions.

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                                                                                                                                              Inverse Akrasia

                                                                                                                                              “Inverse akrasia,” the term used to designate instances of praiseworthy or rational weakness of will, has only been introduced, in Arpaly and Schroeder 1999; however, the issue has already been discussed some twenty-four centuries ago, in Aristotle 2000. The possibility of inverse akrasia is of great philosophical interest because it challenges the assumption that weakness of will is, by its very nature, irrational. See the Irrationality of Weakness of Will. Arpaly 2003 is a helpful book-length inquiry aiming to overturn this assumption. Audi 1990 and McIntyre 2006 are two further influential papers that critically examine the sense in which weak-willed actions could sometimes be rational, whereas Mele 1987 explains away putative instances of inverse akrasia. Williams 1981 introduces the distinction between internal and external reasons, which informs the literature on inverse akrasia.

                                                                                                                                              • Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Edited and translated by Roger Crisp. Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511802058Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                Book VII offers the first philosophical discussion of an inverse akrasia scenario, the case of Neoptolemus as depicted in Sophocles’ tragedy Philoctetes.

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                                                                                                                                                • Arpaly, Nomy. Unprincipled Virtue: An Inquiry into Moral Agency. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1080/00048409012344301Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  An original theory of practical rationality aiming to show that one’s better judgment at the time of action should not be taken as a reference point; therefore, weak-willed actions may be both rational and morally commendable. See especially chapter 2.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Arpaly, Nomy, and Timothy Schroeder. “Praise, Blame and the Whole Self.” Philosophical Studies 93.2 (1999): 161–188.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1023/A:1004222928272Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    The article introduces the notion of inverse akrasia: an action contrary to one’s better judgment, but nevertheless praiseworthy whenever the judgment at issue is both objectively misguided and unrepresentative of one’s broader evaluative commitments. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Audi, Robert. “Weakness of Will and Rational Action.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 68.3 (1990): 270–281.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1080/00048409012344301Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      The paper draws attention to weak-willed actions that are not irrational, for the agent’s better judgment that such actions go against is either flawed or unrepresentative of his or her broader evaluative commitments. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                      • McIntyre, Alison. “What Is Wrong with Weakness of Will?” Journal of Philosophy 103.6 (2006): 284–311.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139165860.009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        The article distinguishes two separate failures associated with weakness of will: a resolution failure (acting contrary to one’s better judgment) and a rationality failure (e.g., doing what one has most reason to avoid). Available online by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Mele, Alfred R. Irrationality: An Essay on Akrasia, Self-Deception, and Self-Control. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1023/A:1019823330245Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          This book distinguishes between two kinds of judgments that weak-willed actions might be performed against: evaluative and executive practical commitments. The latter are similar to putative instances of inverse akrasia.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Williams, Bernard. “Internal and External Reasons.” In Moral Luck: Philosophical Papers, 1973–1980. By Bernard Williams, 101–113. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139165860.009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            The distinction between internal and external reasons, drawn in this paper, informs the literature on inverse akrasia. It is argued that only internal reasons, i.e., reasons present within a person’s motivational set—whether explicitly or inexplicitly—could constitute this person’s reasons for action.

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                                                                                                                                                            Akratic Action and Irrational Belief

                                                                                                                                                            Since weakness of will is typically deemed a paradigm case of practical irrationality, a comparison with some cases of theoretical irrationality, such as self-deception and wishful thinking, becomes natural. Thus, the term “motivated irrationality,”introduced in Pears 1982, covers the shortcomings of both weak-willed actions and motivationally biased beliefs. Mele 2004 offers an excellent introduction to contemporarywork on this topic. In essence, there are two contrasting approaches. According to the first, the main benefit of bringing together weakness of will and its theoretical counterparts is to shed light onto the important dissimilarities between the practical and the theoretical domain, between the normativity of action and that of belief. Typically, this approach leads to denying the possibility of a strict theoretical equivalent of weakness of will, such as epistemic akrasia. According to the second approach, weakness of will can offer an insightful model for conceptualizing some instances of theoretical irrationality that the concepts of epistemic akrasia and akratic belief aim to capture. Pears 1982, Adler 2002, and Owens 2002 expand on the first approach; Pugmire 1982, Rorty 1983, and Shah and Velleman 2005 on the second.

                                                                                                                                                            • Adler, Jonathan E. “Akratic Believing?” Philosophical Studies 110.1 (2002): 1–27.

                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1023/A:1019823330245Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              The paper argues that theoretical reasoning is fundamentally dissimilar to practical reasoning so that weakness of belief—at least on a Davidsonian model of weakness of will—is conceptually impossible. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Mele, Alfred R. “Motivated Irrationality.” In The Oxford Handbook of Rationality. Edited by Alfred R. Mele and Piers Rawling, 240–256. Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                An explanation of the distinctive irrationality of akratic action in contrast to that of motivationally biased belief.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Owens, David. “Epistemic Akrasia.” The Monist 85.3 (2002): 381–397.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.5840/monist200285316Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  An argument against the possibility of epistemic akrasia based on skepticism about the notion of doxastic control, rather than the possibility of holding first-order beliefs contrary to our higher-order beliefs about what is reasonable for us to believe.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Pears, David F. “Motivated Irrationality.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes 56 (1982): 157–178.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Contrasting the so-called last-ditch akrasia with irrational beliefformation, this influential paper explores various differences between reasons for action and reasons for belief. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Pugmire, David. “Motivated Irrationality.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes 56 (1982): 179–196.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1215/00318108-114-4-497Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      By pointing out that last-ditch akrasia is irresistible, the article challenges the underlying disanalogy between the respective irrationality of actions and beliefs identified in Pears 1982. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Rorty, Amelie O. “Akratic Believers.” American Philosophical Quarterly 20.2 (1983): 175–183.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511802058Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        This article develops an exciting account of akrasia of belief, which it contrasts with both akrasia of action and self-deception. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Shah, Nishi, and J. David Velleman. “Doxastic Deliberation.” Philosophical Review 114.4 (2005): 497–534.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1215/00318108-114-4-497Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          An account of the nature and scope of deliberation about what to believe, understood by analogy with practical reasoning that is aimed at concluding in an intention or action. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Akratic Attitudes

                                                                                                                                                                          Many conceptions of weakness of will unfold primarily, if not exclusively, at the level of action—as accounts of weak-willed actions. The works cited in this section are representative of an alternative—perhaps less visible, but nonetheless equally significant—trend that emphasizes expressions of weakness of will at the level of attitudes. In fact, an interest in akratic attitudes, on a par with akratic actions, is already present in the main classical text on weakness of will, Aristotle 2000. Audi 1979 is an influential contemporary paper bringing to the fore the significance of akratic attitudes, over and above akratic actions. Smith 2005 offers a critical discussion of some of the intuitions, which have contributed to considering attitudes as having lesser import than actions, e.g., the association of responsibility with a notion of control, whereas Shoemaker 2011 looks at responsibility for akratic emotions. Radoilska 2013 argues that responsibility for attitudes on a par with actions effectively requires a robust notion of agential control. Elster 1984 and Frankfurt 1988 set out two independent theoretical frameworks that acknowledge responsibility for attitudes, including akratic ones, as fundamental rather than derived from responsibility for actions. Dunn 1992 identifies and explores a distinctive rationality requirement for attitudes, which akratic attitudes violate.

                                                                                                                                                                          • Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Edited and translated by Roger Crisp. Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511802058Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            Book VII presents akrasia as a blameworthy character disposition, which may be instantiated not only in actions but also emotions, beliefs, and desires.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Audi, Robert. “Weakness of Will and Practical Judgment.” Noûs 13.2 (1979): 173–196.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.2307/2214396Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              An insightful discussion of akrasia at the level of attitudes only, e.g., akratic formation of a person’s predominant desires and interests; what’s more, such akratic attitudes may be acted upon single-mindedly. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Dunn, Robert. “Akratic Attitudes and Rationality.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 70.1 (1992): 24–39.

                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1080/00048408112340023Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                The paper distinguishes between object- and attitude-related reasons and then explores a rationality requirement leveled specifically at propositional attitudes. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Elster, Jon. Ulysses and the Sirens: Studies in Rationality and Irrationality. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1086/659003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                  An influential account of anticipated weakness of will, including inconsistent projects with respect to emotions and, more widely—spontaneous attitudes that an agent (paradoxically) sets out to develop at will. First published in 1979.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Frankfurt, Harry. The Importance of What We Care About: Philosophical Essays. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511818172Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                    A collection of essays on the nature and significance of a person’s perspective on his or her own attitudes. The papers on wholeheartedness and volitional necessity are of particular relevance to the topic.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Radoilska, Lubomira. Addiction and Weakness of Will. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1093/med/9780199641963.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                      This book (see especially chapter 2) engages with other early-21st-century work on responsibility for attitudes and proposes a notion of agential control that allows us to treat attitudes on a par with actions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Shoemaker, David. “Attributability, Answerability, and Accountability: Toward a Wider Theory of Moral Responsibility.” Ethics 121.3 (2011): 602–632.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        A critique of the Smith 2005 account of responsibility for attitudes, focusing on akratic emotions and conflicting attitudes. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Smith, Angela. “Responsibility for Attitudes: Activity and Passivity in Mental Life.” Ethics 115.2 (2005): 236–271.

                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1086/426957Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          An account of attitudes as targets of responsibility assessment in their own right, rather than as consequences of one’s actions and choices. On this view, attitudes are responsible to the extent that they reflect one’s rational evaluative judgments. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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