Aristotle on Actions from Lack of Control

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Abstract
The paper defends three claims about Aristotle’s theory of uncontrolled actions (akrasia) in NE 7.3. First, I argue that the first part of NE 7.3 contains the description of the overall state of mind of the agent while she acts without control. Aristotle’s solution to the problem of uncontrolled action lies in the analogy between the uncontrolled agent and people who are drunk, mad, or asleep. This analogy is interpreted as meaning that the uncontrolled agent, while acting without control, is still in possession of her knowledge but she is unable to use it as knowledge due to the temporary disablement of her reason by appetite. Due to this disablement, the uncontrolled agent is temporarily unable to be motivated to act by her knowledge and acts merely on her appetite. Second, I argue that the second part of NE 7.3 provides an analysis of the particular mental state from which the uncontrolled action issues. Its central passage is a description of the uncontrolled agent’s state of mind before the uncontrolled action and not, as it has been traditionally understood, a description of her state of mind during the uncontrolled action. Third, I argue that, on Aristotle’s view, the transition from the state before the uncontrolled action to the state in which the agent already acts without control does not involve any psychological state that would constitute the agent’s choice to abandon her decision and give in to her desires but proceeds on a purely physiological level
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Archival date: 2015-03-06
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2015-03-06

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