Huei-Rong Li
University of Kansas
Donald Davidson's analysis of weakness of will explains the possibility of weakness of will and the cause of weakness of will. Davidson shows the compatibility between the existence of incontinent actions and the principle that an agent always acts on what he judges to be better through describing an incontinent agent as an agent who fails to detach an all-out, unconditional judgment from his all-things-considered judgment, but infers an all-out, unconditional judgment from another competing prima facie, conditional judgment with an insufficient reason. Davidson identifies the strong desire causing an incontinent agent to act as the cause of his incontinence. Such a mental cause bears a non-logical causal relation with its effect and brings about an inner inconsistency within an agent. The theory of partitioned mind explains how inner inconsistency is possible under the assumption that no propositional attitude can exist without causally and logically connecting to other propositional attitudes. My dissertation seeks to explain and defend Davidson's analysis of weakness of will. Chapter I introduces Davidson's causal theory of action. Chapter II explains how weakness of will is compatible with principles or assumptions accepted by the causal theory of action. Davidson describes incontinence as a failure in reasoning, and in Chapter III I argue that incontinence as a failure in reasoning is possible because there is no implication between an all-things-considered judgment and an all-out, unconditional judgment, that the mental cause which is responsible for such a failure could be multiple, and that probabilistic akrasia as a case of failure in reasoning parallel to incontinent action is possible. Chapter IV investigates Davidson's taking incontinence as an inner inconsistency. I argue that the explanatory force of the theory of partitioned mind lies in the separation of two inconsistent propositional attitudes, that the theory of partitioned mind is necessary to account for inner inconsistency, and that inner consistency can be a standard of rationality. Chapter V is a conclusion of this dissertation.
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