Type of Document Dissertation Author Watkins, Lisa Ann URN etd-04092007-190246 Title The Problem of Akratic Action Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Philosophy, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Alfred Mele Committee Chair Joshua Gert Committee Member Roy Baumeister Committee Member Keywords
- Weakness of Will
- Intentional Action
- Akratic Action
Date of Defense 2007-03-26 Availability unrestricted AbstractABSTRACT
According to the common account, an akratic action is an action that is performed freely, intentionally, and contrary to an agentís better judgment. Donald Davidson, who has given the modern face to the formulation and discussion of the problem of akratic action, begins his discussion with his own reading of an ďuncontroversialĒ doctrine regarding intentional action. The general reading of this doctrine states that when an agent acts intentionally he acts in light of some imagined good. Davidsonís reading of this doctrine is that when an agent acts intentionally he acts in light of what he imagines to be the better.
I begin my own account of akratic action by explaining that Davidsonís reading of this doctrine is mistaken because it ignores two distinct ways in which an agent can think something to be good (or worth pursuing); a comparative and a non-comparative (simple) way. If the distinction between simple and comparative judgments is overlooked it is easy to see how Davidsonís formulation of the problem of akratic action gets its legs. If one assumes that an agentís judgment that bears on what she does intentionally must be a comparative better judgment, as Davidson claims, then it seems that the agent will (intentionally) act in accordance with what she judges to be the better. This makes akratic action seem difficult if not impossible to explain. However if the distinction is acknowledged and it can furthermore be shown that simple judgments, not just comparative judgments, produce corresponding intentional action, and furthermore that they may produce intentional action at times when a conflicting comparative judgment is also present, then akratic action is intelligible.
After analyzing Davidsonís own reading of the doctrine of intentional action, and the two principles (P1 and P2) that he uses to flesh it out, I formulate my own account of these principles (P1 and P2) and the two distinct types of motivation that play a role in each. In showing that there are two distinct types of motivation, I show that wanting x more in a theoretical sense may not translate into the agentís wanting x more in a practical sense. If it does not, then the path is clear for the occurrence of akratic action.
If an agent can in a theoretical sense want more what he judges as evaluatively better, yet in a practical sense want more what he has a simple judgment of goodness regarding (and this simple judgment conflicts with his comparative value-based judgment), then contrary to what Davidsonís P1 and P2 entail, an agent may act intentionally and freely in opposition to what he judges evaluatively better (best).
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