Aquinas and weakness of will

Aquinas’s admirers, reacting against Donald Davidson’s criticisms of hirn, commonly argue (a) that the will does play a role in Aquinas’s account of incontinence, and (b) that his explanation of incontinent action turns on the weakness of the will. The first part of this paper argues that they are correct about (a) but wholly mistaken about (b). Aquinas rarely even mentions the weakness of the will, and he neverinvokes it to explain why someone acts counter to her own better judgment. In his view, such a person has the capacity for self-control but fails to exercise it. The second part of the paper considers Gary Watson’s account of incontinence, including and especially his objections to analyzing it as the failure to exercise one’s capacity for self-control. Here I argue that Aquinas’s account better serves the purposesof moral discourse and that it should not be expected to provide the kind of causal explanation Watson seeks.
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DOI 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2007.00060.x
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