Philosophical orthodoxy identifies weakness of will with akrasia: the weak willed person is someone who intentionally acts against their better judgement. It is argued that this is a mistake. Weakness of will consists in a quite different failing, namely an over-ready revision of one's intentions. Building on the work of Bratman, an account of such over-ready revision is given. A number of examples are then adduced showing how weakness of will, so understood, differs from akrasia.
Can we decide to trust? Sometimes, yes. And when we do, we need not believe that our trust will be vindicated. This paper is motivated by the need to incorporate these facts into an account of trust. Trust involves reliance; and in addition it requires the taking of a reactive attitude to that reliance. I explain how the states involved here differ from belief. And I explore the limits of our ability to trust. I then turn to the idea of (...) trusting what others say. I suggest that we sometimes decide to trust people to be sincere and knowledgeable; and that having taken this attitude towards them, we come to believe what they say. I spell out some consequences that this has for an account of testimony, and for van Fraassen's decision theoretic principle of Reflection. (shrink)
At least since the middle of the twentieth century, philosophers have tended to identify weakness of will with akrasia—i.e. acting, or having a disposition to act, contrary to one‘s judgments about what is best for one to do. However, there has been some recent debate about whether this captures the ordinary notion of weakness of will. Richard Holton (1999, 2009) claims that it doesn’t, while Alfred Mele (2010) argues that, to a certain extent, it does. As Mele recognizes, the question (...) about an ordinary concept here is one apt for empirical investigation. We evaluate Mele’s studies and report some experiments of our own in order to investigate what in the world the ordinary concept of weakness of will is. We conclude that neither Mele nor Holton (previously) was quite right and offer a tentative proposal of our own: the ordinary notion is more like a prototype or cluster concept whose application is affected by a variety of factors. (shrink)
This paper argues that a popular account of intentions can be extended to beliefs. Beliefs are stable all-out states that allow for planning and coordination in a way that is tractable for cognitively limited creatures like human beings. Scepticism is expressed that there is really anything like credences as standardly understood.
Is a belief that one will succeed necessary for an intention? It is argued that the question has traditionally been badly posed, framed as it is in terms of all-out belief. We need instead to ask about the relation between intention and partial belief. An account of partial belief that is more psychologically realistic than the standard credence account is developed. A notion of partial intention is then developed, standing to all-out intention much as partial belief stands to all-out belief. (...) Various coherence constraints on the notion are explored. It is concluded that the primary relations between intention and belief should be understood as normative and not essential. (shrink)
Empirical findings suggest that temptation causes agents not only to change their desires, but also to revise their beliefs, in ways that are not necessarily irrational. But if this is so, how can it be rational to maintain a resolution to resist? For in maintaining a resolution it appears that one will be acting against what one now believes to be best. This paper proposes a two-tier account according to which it can be rational neither to reconsider the question of (...) what one is going to do nor the question of what it is best to do; hence in the resolute agent the change in belief is not actual but merely potential. Various reasons are given for thinking that the resulting account is preferable to an alternative given by Bratman. (shrink)
Most recent accounts of will-power have tried to explain it as reducible to the operation of beliefs and desires. In opposition to such accounts, this paper argues for a distinct faculty of will-power. Considerations from philosophy and from social psychology are used in support.
The orthodox answer to my question is this: in a case of self-deception, the self acts to deceive itself. That is, the self is the author of its own deception. I want to explore an opposing idea here: that the self is rather the subject matter of the deception. That is, I want to explore the idea that self-deception is more concerned with the self’s deception about the self, than with the self’s deception by the self. The expression would thus (...) be semantically comparable to expressions like ‘self-knowledge’ (which involves knowledge about the self) rather than to expressions like ‘self-control’ (which involves control by the self).1 On this approach, what goes wrong, when we are self-deceived, is that we lack self-knowledge; or, more accurately, since one can lack knowledge without falling into error, what goes wrong is that we have false beliefs about ourselves. Not any kind of false belief about oneself; I am not self-deceived when I mistake my shoe size. Rather, self-deception requires false beliefs about the kind of subject matter that, were one to get it right, would constitute self-knowledge. It is an interesting fact about current English that, though we talk freely of self-knowledge, we have no common term to designate its absence. Seventeenth century writers talked of self-ignorance; but the term has fallen from use. I suggest that ‘self-deception’ is the nearest we have. (shrink)
We aim to find a middle path between disease models of addiction, and those that treat addictive choices as choices like any other. We develop an account of the disease element by focussing on the idea that dopamine works primarily to lay down dispositional intrinsic desires. Addictive substances artifically boost the dopamine signal, and thereby lay down intrinsic desires for the substances that persist through withdrawal, and in the face of beliefs that they are worthless. The result is cravings that (...) are largely outside the control of the addict. But this does not mean that addicts are bound to act on such cravings, since they typically retain their faculty of self-control. The issue is one of difficulty not impossibility. Controlling an addictive craving is exceedingly demanding. (shrink)
Should particularists about ethics claim that moral principles are never true? Or should they rather claim that any finite set of principles will not be sufficient to capture ethics? This paper explores and defends the possibility of embracing the second of these claims whilst rejecting the first, a position termed principled particularism. The main argument that particularists present for their position - the argument that holds that any moral conclusion can be superceded by further considerations - is quite compatible with (...) principled particularism; indeed, it is compatible with the idea that every true moral conclusion can be shown to follow deductively from a finite set of premises. Whilst it is true that these premises must contain implicit ceteris paribus clauses, this does not render the arguments trivial. On the contrary, they can do important work in justifying moral conclusions. Finally the approach is briefly applied to the related field of jurisprudence. (shrink)
Some recent studies have suggested that belief in determinism tends to undermine moral motivation: subjects who are given determinist texts to read become more likely to cheat or engage in vindictive behaviour. One possible explanation is that people are natural incompatibilists, so that convincing them of determinism undermines their belief that they are morally responsible. I suggest a different explanation, and in doing so try to shed some light on the phenomenology of free will. I contend that one aspect of (...) the phenomenology is our impression that maintaining a resolution requires effort—an impression well supported by a range of psychological data. Determinism can easily be interpreted as showing that such effort will be futile: in effect determinism is conflated with fatalism, in a way that is reminiscent of the Lazy argument used against the Stoics. If this interpretation is right, it explains how belief in determinism undermines moral motivation without needing to attribute sophisticated incompatibilist beliefs to subjects; it works by undermining subjects' self-efficacy. It also provides indirect support for the contention that this is one of the sources of the phenomenology of free will. (shrink)
Choice is one of the central elements in the experience of free will, but it has not received a good account from either compatibilists or libertarians. This paper develops an account of choice based around three features: (i) choice is an action; (ii) choice is not determined by one's prior beliefs and desires; (iii) once the question of what to do has arisen, choice is typically both necessary and sufficient for moving to action. These features might appear to support a (...) libertarian account, but they do not. Instead it is argued that all three features can be accommodated within a compatibilist account, where choice is needed because of agents' inabilities to arrive at judgements about what is best. Choice differs though from random picking: in choosing, agents frequently (though not always) deploy abilities that enable them to make good choices. In such cases, judgements about what is best will frequently follow the choice. Finally choice is distinguished from agency, and, on the basis of the distinction, the claim that choice is an action is made good. (shrink)
In this paper, we contend that the psychology of addiction is similar to the psychology of ordinary, non-addictive temptation in important respects, and explore the ways in which these parallels can illuminate both addiction and ordinary action. The incentive salience account of addiction proposed by Robinson and Berridge (1993; 2001; 2008) entails that addictive desires are not in their nature different from many of the desires had by non-addicts; what is different is rather the way that addictive desires are acquired, (...) which in turn affects their strength. We examine these “incentive salience” desires, both in addicts and non-addicts, contrasting them with more cognitive desires. On this account, the self-control challenge faced by addicted agents is not different in kind from that faced by non-addicted agents – though the two may, of course, differ greatly in degree of difficulty. We explore a general model of self-control for both the addict and the non-addict, stressing that self-control may be employed at three different stages, and examining the ways in which it might be strengthened. This helps elucidate a general model of intentional action. (shrink)
The standard account of weakness of will identifies it with akrasia, that is, with action against one's best judgment. Elsewhere I have argued that weakness of will is better understood as over-readily giving up on one's resolutions. Many cases of weak willed action will not be akratic: in over-readily abandoning a resolution an agent may well do something that they judge at the time to be best. Indeed, in so far as temptation typically gives rise to judgment shift -- to (...) a tendency to change one's judgment so that one values the tempting option as the best -- weak willed action will typically be akratic. But conversely, strong willed action now looks as though it will be akratic. I argue though that it need not be, once we distinguish between actual judgment, and dispositions to judge. Within this framework, the issue of inverse akrasia looks rather different. I argue that whilst Huckleberry Finn plausibly does show weakness of will in abandoning his resolve to turn Jim in, it is far from clear that he is akratic: a point brought out well in Twain's later additions to the text. Whilst cases of inverse akrasia are clearly theoretically possible, I suggest that, given cognitive dissonance mechanisms, they are unlikely to be very common. (shrink)
In responding to the challenge that we cannot know that animals feel pain, Peter Singer says: We can never directly experience the pain of another being, whether that being is human or not. When I see my daughter fall and scrape her knee, I know that she feels pain because of the way she behaves—she cries, she tells me her knee hurts, she rubs the sore spot, and so on. I know that I myself behave in a somewhat similar—if more (...) inhibited—way when I feel pain, and so I accept that my daughter feels something like what I feel when I scrape my knee. The basis of my belief that animals can feel pain is similar...1 . Singer here suggests that the epistemological problem facing animal ethics is really the more general problem of other minds: the Cartesian problem of how to escape solipsism, how to cross the bridge from my own thoughts and feelings to the thoughts and feelings of any other being. The suggestion is that no-one can seriously be in the thrall of this sceptical problem. The method for building the bridge to other minds is familiar to us all: we use it every day in our ascriptions of thoughts and feelings to people near and dear, and to those far away. And we use it every day in our ascriptions of thoughts and feelings to animals. (shrink)
Most recent discussion of the provocation defence has focused on the objective test, and little attention has been paid to the subjective test. However, the subjective test provides a substantial constraint: the killing must result from a provocation that undermines the defendant's self-control. The idea of loss of self-control has been developed in both the philosophical and psychological literatures. Understanding the subjective test in the light of the conception developed there makes for a far more coherent interpretation of the provocation (...) defence. It also makes clear just how radical various proposals for reform of the defence would be. (shrink)
In a recent paper Savas Tsohatzidis has provided a number of putative counterexamples to the well-attested Kartunnen-Vendler (K-V) thesis that the use of 'tell' with a wh-complement requires that the speaker spoke truthfully. His counterexamples are sentences like: (1) Old John told us who he saw in the fog, but it turned out that he was mistaken. I argue that such examples do not serve to refute the K-V thesis. Rather, they are examples of a more general phenomenon that I (...) label participant projection, which is manifested in sentences like: (2) He gave her a ring studded with diamonds, but they turned out to be glass. Just as the acceptability of (2) does not show that some diamonds are glass, so the acceptability of (1) does not disprove the K-V thesis. (shrink)
When faced with a rule that they take to be true, and a recalcitrant example, people are apt to say: “The exception proves the rule”. When pressed on what they mean by this though, things are often less than clear. A common response is to dredge up some once-heard etymology: ‘proves’ here, it is often said, means ‘tests’. But this response—its frequent appearance even in some reference works notwithstanding1—makes no sense of the way in which the expression is used. To (...) insist that the exception proves the rule is to insist that whilst this is an exception, the rule still stands; and furthermore, that, rather than undermining the rule, the exception serves to confirm it. This second claim may seem paradoxical, but it should not, once it is realized that what does the confirming is not the exception itself, but rather the fact that we judge it to be an exception; and that what is confirmed is not the rule itself, but rather the fact that we judge it to be a rule. To treat something as an exception is not to treat it as a counterexample that refutes the existence of the rule. Rather it is to treat it as special, and so to concede the rule from which it is excepted. The point comes clearly in the original (probably 17th Century) Latin form: Exceptio probat (figit2) regulam in casibus non exceptis. Exception (i.e. the act of excepting) proves (establishes) the rule in the cases not excepted. Clearly this form of reasoning cannot apply when the rule that we are considering has the form of a simple universal generalization. Here there can be no exceptions, only counterexamples. So what we need, and what will be developed.. (shrink)
It is argued that there are at least three things bundled up in the idea of free will: the capacity manifested by agents whenever they act freely; the property possessed by those actions for which an agent in morally responsible; and the ability to do otherwise. This paper attempts some disentangling.
Addicts may simply deny that they are addicted; or they may use self-signalling to try to provide evidence that giving up is not worthwhile. I provide an account that shows how easy it is to provide apparent evidence either that the addiction is so bad that it cannot be escaped; or that there is no real addiction, and hence nothing to escape. I suggest that the most effective way of avoiding this is to avoid self-signalling altogether.
Quantification into a belief ascription has often been taken to indicate that the believer knows who (or what) their belief is about. Here it is shown, by means of some iterated ascriptions, that this cannot be the correct interpretation of such quantification. In conclusion it is suggested that it should rather be interpreted as indicating that the belief has its source in the object denoted by the quantifier.
Frege begins his discussion of factives in 'On Sense and Reference' with an example of a purported contra-factive, i.e. a verb that entails the falsity of the complement sentence. But the verb he cites, 'waehnen', is now obsolete, and native speakers are sceptical about whether it really was a contra-factive. Despite the profusion of factive verbs, there are no clear examples of contra-factive propositional attitude verbs in English, French or German (or indeed any other Indo-European languages). This paper attempts to (...) give an explanation of why there are no contra-factives, and to use this to shed light on the behaviour of factives more generally. The suggestion is that factive propositional attitude verbs take facts, not propositions, as the referents of their complement sentences; and that as there are no contra-facts (merely false propositions), there can be no contra-factives. This claim is also used to help explain Timothy Williamson's observation that knowledge is the weakest stative propositional attitude factive.. Complexity amongst the factives is then explored. (shrink)
In 'General Propositions and Causality' Ramsey rejects his earlier view that universal generalizations are infinite conjunctions, arguing that they are not genuine propositions at all. We argue that his new position is unstable. The issues about infinity that lead Ramsey to the new view are essentially those underlying Wittgenstein's rule-following considerations. If they show that generalizations are not genuine propositions, they show that there are no genuine propositions. The connection raises interesting historical questions about the direction of influence between Ramsey (...) and Wittgenstein, the origin of the rule-following argument, and the influence of writers such as Brouwer. (shrink)
[Garrett Cullity] Weak particularism about reasons is the view that the normative valency of some descriptive considerations varies, while others have an invariant normative valency. A defence of this view needs to respond to arguments that a consideration cannot count in favour of any action unless it counts in favour of every action. But it cannot resort to a global holism about reasons, if it claims that there are some examples of invariant valency. This paper argues for weak particularism, and (...) presents a framework for understanding the relationships between practical reasons. A central part of this framework is the idea that there is an important kind of reason-a 'presumptive reason'-which need not be conclusive, but which is neither pro tanto nor prima facie. /// [ Richard Holton] Should particularists about ethics claim that moral principles are never true? Or should they rather claim that any finite set of principles will not be sufficient to capture ethics? This paper explores and defends the possibility of embracing the second of these claims whilst rejecting the first, a position termed 'principled particularism'. The main argument that particularists present for their position-the argument that holds that any moral conclusion can be superseded by further considerations-is quite compatible with principled particularism; indeed, it is compatible with the idea that every true moral conclusion can be shown to follow deductively from a finite set of premises. Whilst it is true that these premises must contain implicit ceteris paribus clauses, this does not render the arguments trivial. On the contrary, they can do important work in justifying moral conclusions. Finally the approach is briefly applied to the related field of jurisprudence. (shrink)
There are two parts to Lewis's account of the de se. First there is the idea that the objects of de se thought (and, by extension of de dicto thought too) are properties, not propositions. This is the idea that is center-stage in Lewis's discussion. Second there is the idea that the relation that thinkers bear to these properties is that of self-ascription. It is crucial to LewisÕs account that this is understood as a fundamental, unanalyzable, notion: self-ascription of a (...) property is not ascription of a property to the self, on a par with ascription to someone else. This has been overlooked in much recent discussion, especially when Lewis's account is understood in terms of centered worlds. When it is back in focus it brings problems. An almost Cartesian starting point is required; and first-person plural ascriptions, and those with first person pronouns other than in subject position, become unmanageably complex. (shrink)
Lewis never saw philosophy of language as foundational in the way that many have. One of the most distinctive features of his work is the robust confidence that questions in metaphysics or mind can be addressed head on, and not through the lens of language.
Michael Smith has argued that to value an action is to believe that if one were fully rational one would desire that one perform it. I offer the Muggletonians as a counter-example. The Muggletonians, a 17th century English sect, believed that reason was the path of the Devil. They believed that their fully rational selves - rational in just Smith's sense - would have blasphemed against God; and that their rational selves would have wanted their actual selves to do likewise. (...) But blaspheming against God was not what they valued. (shrink)
A few philosophers have held that determinism should lead to an attitude of resignation: since what will be will be, there is no point trying to influence the future. That argument has rightly been seen as mistaken. But a plausible parallel argument leads from the thesis of predictability---the thesis that it can be known what will happen---to an attitude of resignation. So if predictability is true, our normal practical attitudes may well be deeply mistaken. Fortunately, whilst determinism is a plausible (...) doctrine, there is a strong argument against predictability. Determinism and predictability should be kept well apart. (shrink)
You are, I suspect, exceedingly good at knowing what you intend to do. In saying this I pay you no special compliment. Knowing what one intends is the normal state to be in. And this cries out for some explanation. How is it that we are so authoritative about our own intentions? There are two different approaches that one can take in answering this question. The first credits us with special perceptual powers which we use when we examine our own (...) minds. On this view we detect our own mental states in much the same way that we detect the state of the world around us; but the powers we direct inward are much less prone t o error than those we direct outwards. The alternative approach denies that there is such a thing as inward perception. On this view the whole idea the we detect our own mental states using some kind of internal perceptual apparatus is misguided; a wholly different account is needed. (shrink)
If moral and political philosophy is to be of any use, it had better be concerned with real people. The focus need not be exclusively on people as they are; but it should surely not extend beyond how they would be under laws as they might be. It is one of the strengths of Philip Pettit’s work that it is concerned with real people and the ways that they think: with the commonplace mind. In this paper I examine Pettit’s recent (...) work on free will.2 Much of my concern will be to see how his contentions fit with empirical findings about human psychology. Pettit is a compatibilist about free will: he holds that it is compatible with determinism. But he finds fault with existing compatibilist accounts, and then proposes his own amendment. My aim is to challenge his grounds for finding fault; and then to raise some questions about his own positive account. (shrink)
Can one consistently (i) be a positivist, and (ii) think that the internal attitude to the law is a moral attitude? Two objections are raised in the literature. The first is that the combination is straight-out contradictory. The second is that if the internal attitude is a moral attitude, those who take it cannot be positivists. Arguments from Shiner, Goldsworthy and Raz are examined. It is concluded that neither objection works. The arguments are based on scope errors, conflations of what (...) is said with what is implicated, and a false view of the distinction between detached and committed statements. (shrink)
Building on earlier work, this paper develops a model of legal rules that admit of exceptions but are nonetheless governed by classical logic. The account is defended against alternative accounts that construe legal rules as generics, or as default rules.
My main task here is first to distinguish, and then to map out possibilities. I won’t be concerned to argue for a certain position as much as to argue that various combinations of positions are consistent. In particular, I want to argue that a commitment to minimalism about truth does not bring an automatic commitment to what has been called a minimalist theory of truth-aptitude: the claim that every assertoric sentence which is used in a systematic way will be either (...) true or false. Nor does minimalism about truth bring a commitment to what has been called minimalism about reference: the claim that every word used in a systematic way will refer. (shrink)
Crispin Wright has argued that our concept of intention is extension-determining, and that this explains why we are so good at knowing our intentions: it does so by subverting the idea that we detect them. This paper has two aims. The first is to make sense of Wright's claim that intention is extension-determining; this is achieved by comparing his position to that of analytic functionalism. The second is to show that it doesn't follow from this that we do not detect (...) our intentions. Wright has conflated two questions. Firstly, do we detect our intentions? Secondly do we detect the concept of intention itself? The extension-determining account returns a negative answer only to the second. (shrink)
In a characteristic passage John McDowell says: [T]his is one of those set-ups that are familiar in philosophy, in which a supposedly exhaustive choice confers a spurious plausibility on a philosophical position. The apparent plausibility is not intrinsic to the position, but reflects an assumed framework; when one looks at the position on its own, the plausibility crumbles away ... In such a situation, the thing to do is to query the assumption that seems to force the choice.
In (Holton 1996) I argued that the account of value that Michael Smith has offered was vulnerable to a counter-example in the person of the Muggletonians. Smith argued, roughly, that what one values is what one would desire if one were fully rational. I objected that the Muggletonians held the path of Reason to be the path to evil. According to them, a fully rational person would have their desires so corrupted that they would become, quite literally, Satan. Thus they (...) believed that their fully rational selves would have blasphemed against God; but blaspheming against God was not what they valued. Smith and Bigelow have responded to my alleged counter-example (Bigelow and Smith 1997). They object that my understanding of Smith’s position is itself over rationalistic. We shouldn’t think of the fully rational person as someone who follows the path of Reason wherever it might lead. Rather we should think that the fully rational person is someone who does what they have reason to do. The Muggletonians thought that following the path of Reason would lead them to do things that they have no reason to do; so they believed it would not be rational, in the sense relevant to Smith’s analysis, to follow that path. Hence they provide no counterexample to the analysis. This is an unpublished reply to their paper. (shrink)