Strong-willed Akrasia

In David Shoemaker (ed.), Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility Volume 4. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 06-27 (2017)
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To act akratically is to act, knowingly, against what you judge is best for you to do, and it is traditionally assumed that to do this is to be weak-willed. Some have rejected this identification of akrasia and weakness of will, arguing that the latter is instead best understood as a matter of abandoning one's reasonable resolutions. This paper also rejects the identification of akrasia and weakness of will, but argues that this alternative conception is too broad, and that weakness of will is best understood in relation to certain kinds of pain and pleasure. Moreover, the phenomenon of strong-willed akrasia, cases in which a person must exhibit strength of will to do precisely what she judges she should not do, suggests that strength of will is an executive virtue, and that being weak-willed is just one way (among others) in which a person can fail to manifest this virtue.

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Vida Yao
University of California, Los Angeles


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