The Akratic Agent and Their Situation: The Logical, Psychological, and Social Dimensions of Akrasia Restricted; Files Only

Garippa, Allison (Spring 2022)

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In this thesis, I attend to the differences between the Socratic and Aristotelian positions on akrasia and to the debate between situationism and virtue ethics to argue that akrasia is not just a matter of intellectual failure, but it is also a psychological event that has an important social dimension. Following Socrates’ argument that akrasia is nothing other than ignorance, an important part of the literature categorizes akrasia as an intellectual failure. While Aristotle positions his view against Socrates’ claim that akrasia is nothing other than ignorance, he also seems to argue that akrasia consists of ignorance in some sense, although his view for some has a psychological component as well. The scholars who hold that akrasia is for the most part an intellectual failure in Aristotle focus on NE VII.3 in which he argues that the akratic agent is ignorant in the sense of having but not using some knowledge. Given the weight of the logical interpretation, even scholars who include the psychological aspects of akrasia tend to start the discussion with questions about what kind of knowledge fails. I side with those who hold that if we attend to Aristotle’s full account of akrasia in NE VII.1-10, we can recognize that akrasia is both a logical and psychological phenomenon. Once this is established, I explore the sources of some psychological elements by paying attention to how representations and desires are shaped. And I use the framework of the debate between situationism and virtue ethics to argue that a potential source of failure in representation and desire is social. I view akratic action as a psychological event insofar as the akratic agent is conflicted from a representational and motivational standpoint. I argue that if we attend to the sources of the akratic agent’s representation (phantasia), we can uncover how her representations are socially mediated by her experiences. To support this view, I put forth a case where akratic action is an expression of situational barriers to act in accordance with correct reason, which helps to spell out some details of the psychological aspects of akrasia and its social dimension.  

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction 1-8

Summary of the Argument 3-8

Chapter 1: The Force of Socratic Intellectualism on the Problem of Akrasia 9-33

Section 1: Ignorance of the Art of Measurement in the Protagoras 12-20

Socrates’ Opening Nod to the Problem of Akrasia: The Ignorance of Hippocrates 14-16

Socrates’ Intellectualism and His Unitary Value Theory in the Protagoras 16-18

Socrates’ “Argument for Hedonism” and His Unitary Value Theory 18-20

Section 2: Having the Wrong Idea of What is Good in General in the Gorgias 21-29

Socrates’ Intellectualism in the Gorgias 22-25

Socrates’ Argument Against Hedonism and His Disunity of Values 25-28

Socrates’ Version of His No One Errs Willingly Thesis in the Gorgias 28-29

Section 3: How Does Socrates Understand Akrasia? 29-33

Chapter 2: Aristotle’s Argument for the Possibility of Akrasia: Two Interpretations 33-71

Section 1: Aristotle’s Argument for the Possibility of Akrasia 34-46

What Aristotle Takes Socrates’ Argument to be in NE VII.1-VII.2 35-38

To What Extent Aristotle Refute Socrates’ Argument in His General Account of Akrasia in NE VII.3 38-41

To What Extent Aristotle Refutes Socrates’ Argument in NE VII.4-VII.10 42-46

Section 2: Logical Interpretations of Aristotle’s Argument for the Possibility of Akrasia 46-63

A Mishap of Universal Knowledge 47-52

A Mishap of Particular Knowledge 53-58

A Mishap of the Conclusion 58-63

Section 3: Psychological Interpretations of Aristotle’s Argument for the Possibility of Akrasia 63-71

Whether Desire is a Kind of Clouding and Knowledge is a Kind of Silencing of Desires 63-66

Desire and the Representation of Object of Desire 66-71

Chapter 3: The Akratic Agent in a Context 71-99

Section 1: Akrasia as a Logical and Psychological Phenomenon 72-78

Akrasia as Ignorance in the Way of Not Drawing or Exercising the Conclusion of the Temperate Syllogism 74-76

Akrasia as an Issue of Moral or Value Perception of the Object of Desire 76-78

Section 2: The Importance of Phantasia for Moral or Value Perception 78-84

Phantasia as the Cause of Desire 78-80

Desire as the Final Cause of Action 80-82

The Sources of Phantasia 82-84

Section 3: Cases of Akratic Action that are Expressions of Situational Barriers to Action 84-99

Virtue Ethics and Situationism 84-90

The Akratic Agent’s Situation and How it Affects their Phantasia of the Desired Object 90-95

Akratic Action as an Expression of Barriers to Virtuous Action 96-99

Conclusion 99-101

Bibliography 102-106

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