Akrasia, self-control, and second-order desires

Noûs 26 (3):281-302 (1992)
Abstract
Pristine belief/desire psychology has its limitations. Recognizing this, some have attempted to fill various gaps by adding more of the same, but at higher levels. Thus, for example, second-order desires have been imported into a more stream- lined view to explicate such important notions as freedom of the will, personhood, and valuing. I believe that we need to branch out as well as up, augmenting a familiar 'philosophical psychology' with psychological items that are irreducible to beliefs and desires (for support, see Mele 1987 and 1992). That theme will be left largely in the background here, however. The issue to be explored is a narrower one: the place of higher-order desires in a proper conception of continent and incontinent behavior. My guiding question is whether an action's counting as continent or incontinent depends upon the agent's having at the time a pertinent higher-order desire. The answer that I shall defend is, in a word, 'No.'.
Keywords akrasia
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Alfred Mele (2010). Weakness of Will and Akrasia. Philosophical Studies 150 (3):391–404.
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