Prior work on weakness of will has assumed that it is a thoroughly psychological phenomenon. At least, it has assumed that ordinary attributions of weakness of will are purely psychological attributions, keyed to the violation of practical commitments by the weak-willed agent. Debate has recently focused on which sort of practical commitment, intention or normative judgment, is more central to the ordinary concept of weakness of will. We report five experiments that significantly advance our understanding of weakness of will attributions (...) by showing that the ordinary concept of weakness of will is less thoroughly psychological than the philosophical debate has assumed. We begin by showing that a sizable minority of people attribute weakness of will even in the absence of a violated commitment (Experiment 1). We then show that weakness of will attributions are sensitive to two important non-psychological factors. First, for actions stereotypically associated with weakness of will, the absence of certain commitments often triggers weakness of will attributions (Experiments 2–4). Second, the quality of an action’s outcome affects the extent to which an agent is viewed as weak-willed: actions with bad consequences are more likely to be viewed as weak-willed (Experiment 5). Our most important finding is that the ordinary concept of weakness of will is sensitive to two non-psychological factors and is thus much broader than philosophers have thus far imagined. We conclude by suggesting a two-tier model that unites our findings with traditional philosophical theorizing about weakness of will. (shrink)
Philosophers who have written on modesty have largely agreed that it is a virtue, and that it therefore has an important psychological component. Mere modest behavior, it is often argued, is actually false modesty if it is generated by the wrong kind of mental state. The philosophical debate about modesty has largely focused on the question of which kind of mental state—cognitive, motivational, or evaluative—best captures the virtue of modesty. We therefore conducted a series of experiments to see which philosophical (...) account matches the folk concept of modesty. Surprisingly, we found that the folk concept is primarily behavioral. This leads us to argue that modesty may not be a virtue, but that if it is none of the extant philosophical accounts have properly explained why. (shrink)
It is by now no secret that some scientific articles are ghost authored – that is, written by someone other than the person whose name appears at the top of the article. Ghost authorship, however, is only one sort of ghosting. In this article, we present evidence that pharmaceutical companies engage in the ghost management of the scientific literature, by controlling or shaping several crucial steps in the research, writing, and publication of scientific articles. Ghost management allows the pharmaceutical industry (...) to shape the literature in ways that serve its interests. This article aims to reinforce and expand publication ethics as an important area of concern for bioethics. Since ghost-managed research is primarily undertaken in the interests of marketing, large quantities of medical research violate not just publication norms but also research ethics. Much of this research involves human subjects, and yet is performed not primarily to increase knowledge for broad human benefit, but to disseminate results in the service of profits. Those who sponsor, manage, conduct, and publish such research therefore behave unethically, since they put patients at risk without justification. This leads us to a strong conclusion: if medical journals want to ensure that the research they publish is ethically sound, they should not publish articles that are commercially sponsored. (shrink)
Abstract: This paper considers the question of whether it is possible to be mistaken about the content of our first-order intentional states. For proponents of the rational agency model of self-knowledge, such failures might seem very difficult to explain. On this model, the authority of self-knowledge is not based on inference from evidence, but rather originates in our capacity, as rational agents, to shape our beliefs and other intentional states. To believe that one believes that p, on this view, constitutes (...) one's belief that p and so self-knowledge involves a constitutive relation between first- and second-order beliefs. If this is true, it is hard to see how those second-order beliefs could ever be false.I develop two counter-examples which show that despite the constitutive relation between first- and second-order beliefs in standard cases of self-knowledge, it is possible to be mistaken, and even self-deceived, about the content of one's own beliefs. These counter-examples do not show that the rational agency model is mistaken—rather, they show that the possibility of estrangement from one's own mental life means that, even within the rational agency model, it is possible to have false second-order beliefs about the content of one's first-order beliefs. The authority of self-knowledge does not entail that to believe that one believes that p suffices to make it the case that one believes that p. (shrink)
The war on drugs is widely criticized as unjust. The idea that the laws prohibiting drugs are unjust can easily lead to the conclusion that those laws do not deserve our respect, so that our only moral reason to obey them flows from a general moral obligation to obey the law, rather than from anything morally troubling about drug use itself. In this paper, I argue that this line of thinking is mistaken. I begin by arguing that the drug laws (...) are indeed unjust. However, so long as they remain prohibited, I argue that we have strong moral reasons to avoid drug use. First, drug users are partly responsible for the violent and exploitative conditions in which many drugs are produced and distributed. Second, the unequal ways in which drug laws are enforced make drug use by many an unethical exercise of privilege. These reasons do not depend on the existence of a general moral obligation to obey the law; we ought to refrain from illegal drug use even if prohibition is unjust and even if we have no general obligation to obey the law. In fact, drug laws turn out to represent an interesting exception case within the broader debate about this obligation, and I argue that it is the very injustice of the law that generates the reasons not to violate it. (shrink)
In this article I criticize the non-consequentialist Weighted Lottery (WL) solution to the choice between saving a smaller or a larger group of people. WL aims to avoid what non-consequentialists see as consequentialism's unfair aggregation by giving equal consideration to each individual's claim to be rescued. In so doing, I argue, WL runs into another common objection to consequentialism: it is excessively demanding. WL links the right action with the outcome of a fairly weighted lottery, which means that an agent (...) can only act rightly if s/he has actually run the lottery. In many actual cases, this involves epistemic demands that can be almost impossible to meet. I argue that plausible moral principles cannot make such extreme epistemic demands. (shrink)
This paper argues that most contemporary accounts of weakness of will either implicitly or explicitly assume that regret is a typical or even necessary element of standard cases of weakness of will and that this assumption is mistaken. I draw on empirical and philosophical work on self-assessment to show that regret need not accompany typical weak-willed behavior, and that we should therefore revise the dominant account of the difference between weakness of will and changes of mind.
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. (shrink)