This paper took too long to write: A puzzle about overcoming weakness of will

Philosophical Psychology 28 (1):49-69 (2015)
Mathieu Doucet
University of Waterloo
Rachel McKinnon
College of Charleston
The most discussed puzzle about weakness of will (WoW) is how it is possible: how can a person freely and intentionally perform actions that she judges she ought not perform, or that she has resolved not to perform? In this paper, we are concerned with a much less discussed puzzle about WoW?how is overcoming it possible? We explain some of the ways in which previously weak-willed agents manage to overcome their weakness. Some of these are relatively straightforward?as agents learn of the real costs of weakness, or as those costs mount dramatically, they can become strongly motivated to do what they already judged best. But other cases are more difficult to explain: sometimes, agents with a long history of forming and then weakly abandoning resolutions manage to stick to their guns. We argue that these cases can be explained by combining George Ainslie's model of agents as multiple preference orderings competing in game theoretic interactions along with the insights of evolutionary game theory. This can explain the puzzling cases where agents suddenly adopt successful strategies for avoiding weak-willed behavior, especially where agents gain no new information about themselves or the consequences of their actions
Keywords Weakness of will  Game theory  Evolutionary game theory  George Ainslie  Resolutions  Strength of will
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DOI 10.1080/09515089.2013.827394
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