What is self-control?

Philosophical Psychology 21 (1):69 – 90 (2008)
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What is self-control and how does the concept of self-control relate to the notion of will-power? A widespread philosophical opinion has been that the notion of will-power does not add anything beyond what can be said using other motivational notions, such as strength of desire and intention. One exception is Richard Holton who, inspired by recent research in social psychology, has argued that will-power is a separate faculty needed for persisting in one's resolutions, what he calls 'strength of will'. However, he distinguishes strength of will from self-control. In this paper I argue that will-power is essential also to a certain form of self-control. I support this claim by arguments showing that the traditional philosophical accounts of self-control run into difficulties because they pay insufficient attention to will-power as an independent source of motivation.

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Edmund Henden
Oslo Metropolitan University


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