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Problem of Akratic Action

Title: The Problem of Akratic Action.
Name(s): Watkins, Lisa Ann, author
Mele, Alfred, professor directing dissertation
Baumeister, Roy, outside committee member
Gert, Joshua, committee member
Department of Philosophy, degree granting department
Florida State University, degree granting institution
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2007
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: According to the common account, an akratic action is an action that is performed freely, intentionally, and contrary to an agent's better judgment. Donald Davidson, who has given the modern face to the formulation and discussion of the problem of akratic action, begins his discussion with his own reading of an "uncontroversial" doctrine regarding intentional action. The general reading of this doctrine states that when an agent acts intentionally he acts in light of some imagined good. Davidson's reading of this doctrine is that when an agent acts intentionally he acts in light of what he imagines to be the better. I begin my own account of akratic action by explaining that Davidson's reading of this doctrine is mistaken because it ignores two distinct ways in which an agent can think something to be good (or worth pursuing); a comparative and a non-comparative (simple) way. If the distinction between simple and comparative judgments is overlooked it is easy to see how Davidson's formulation of the problem of akratic action gets its legs. If one assumes that an agent's judgment that bears on what she does intentionally must be a comparative better judgment, as Davidson claims, then it seems that the agent will (intentionally) act in accordance with what she judges to be the better. This makes akratic action seem difficult if not impossible to explain. However if the distinction is acknowledged and it can furthermore be shown that simple judgments, not just comparative judgments, produce corresponding intentional action, and furthermore that they may produce intentional action at times when a conflicting comparative judgment is also present, then akratic action is intelligible. After analyzing Davidson's own reading of the doctrine of intentional action, and the two principles (P1 and P2) that he uses to flesh it out, I formulate my own account of these principles (P1 and P2) and the two distinct types of motivation that play a role in each. In showing that there are two distinct types of motivation, I show that wanting x more in a theoretical sense may not translate into the agent's wanting x more in a practical sense. If it does not, then the path is clear for the occurrence of akratic action. If an agent can in a theoretical sense want more what he judges as evaluatively better, yet in a practical sense want more what he has a simple judgment of goodness regarding (and this simple judgment conflicts with his comparative value-based judgment), then contrary to what Davidson's P1 and P2 entail, an agent may act intentionally and freely in opposition to what he judges evaluatively better (best).
Identifier: FSU_migr_etd-1237 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation Submitted to the Department of Philosophy in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Spring Semester, 2007.
Date of Defense: March 26, 2007.
Keywords: Weakness of Will, Intentional Action, Motivation, Self-Control, Akratic Action
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory committee: Alfred Mele, Professor Directing Dissertation; Roy Baumeister, Outside Committee Member; Joshua Gert, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Philosophy
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

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Watkins, L. A. (2007). The Problem of Akratic Action. Retrieved from