Reasoning with the Irrational

Ancient Philosophy 26 (2):243-258 (2006)
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Abstract

It is widely held by commentators that in the Protagoras, Socrates attempts to explain the experience of mental conflict and weakness of the will without positing the existence of irrational desires, or desires that arise independently of, and so can conflict with, our reasoned conception of the good. In this essay, I challenge this commonly held line of thought. I argue that Socrates has a unique conception of an irrational desire, one which allows him to explain the experience of mental conflict and weakness of the will, while still holding the Socratic thesis that we always do what we think is good. The resulting picture is both psychologically plausible and philosophically distinctive.

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Rachel Singpurwalla
University of Maryland, College Park

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