Weakness of Will: A Case Study for Moral Philosophy and the Cognitive Neurosciences Open Access

Haas, Julia Simone (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/rj4305320?locale=en
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Abstract

My doctoral dissertation, "Weakness of Will: A Case Study for Moral Philosophy and the Cognitive Neurosciences," provides a naturalistic theory of why agents act against their better judgment. Drawing on evidence from computational modeling and cognitive neuroscience, I demonstrate that suboptimal interactions between three known decision-making controllers (i.e., the Pavlovian, goal-directed, and habit-based controllers) elicit different, albeit psychologically indistinguishable kinds of weakness of will.

Table of Contents

Table Of Contents

Part I

Historical Perspectives On Weakness Of Will

Chapter 1

Searching for the Mechanisms Underlying Weakness of Will 1

1. Introduction: Mechanisms and Breakdowns 1

2. Explaining the Phenomenon 5

3. Two Philosophical Models 8

4. A New Mechanistic Account of Weakness of Will 9

5. Evaluating Competing Mechanisms 10

Chapter 2

The Standard Theory: Syllogism-Based Explanations Of Weakness Of Will 15

1. Introduction 15

2. Practical Reasoning and Deductively Valid Arguments 17

3. Aristotle and the Practical Syllogism 19

3.1. How Weakness of Will Works for Aristotle 19

3.2. Aristotle's Influence on Medieval Philosophy 24

4. Davidson's Rejection of the Deductive Account of Practical Deliberation 26

4.1. Reasons as Causes 27

4.2. Weakness of Will 28

4.3. Davidson's Influence on the Contemporary Debate 34

5. Assessing Syllogism-Based Accounts as Mechanism Schemas 38

5.1. Incompleteness 39

5.2. Incorrectness 40

6. Conclusion 46

Chapter 3

The Alternative Position: Valuation-Based Models Of Weakness Of Will 47

1. Introduction 47

2. Weakness of Will in Plato's Protagoras 50

2.1. The Critical Argument 52

2.2. The Constructive Argument 53

2.3. The Problem of Hedonism 54

3. The Tripartite Soul and Weakness of Will in the Republic 58

4. Spinoza's Theory of Weakness of Will 60

4.1. Rejecting the faculty of the will 61

4.2. The Big Picture And Some Basic Definitions 62

4.2.1. Adequate and Inadequate Ideas 62

4.2.2. Passivity and Activity 63

4.2.3. Looking Ahead 64

4.3. The Relative Power Of Inadequate And Adequate Ideas 64

4.4. The Relative Motivational Force Of Different Emotions 65

4.5. The Asymmetrical Balance Of Power Between Knowledge 66

and The Emotions

5. R.M. Hare's Prescriptivist Account of Weakness of Will 69

6. Assessing Valuation-Based Accounts as Mechanisms 72

6.1. Incompleteness 72

6.2. Incorrectness 74

6.2.1. Value, Pleasure, and Pain 75

6.2.2. Measuring value 77

6.2.3. Approach and Withdraw Behaviors 79

6.2.4. Reliance on a Single System 80

Part II

Learning From Machines, Animals, And Humans Beings: A New Valuation-Based Theory Of Decision-Making And Weakness Of Will

Chapter 4

Adopting a different starting point: Computation-based approaches 82

to decision-making and weakness of will

1. Introduction 82

2. Some Basic Requirements for Decision-Making and Weakness of Will 85

2.1. Goals 86

2.2. Basic Regulation 88

2.3. Specific Regulation 89

2.4.Value-Based Decision-Making: Choice 89

3. The Historical and Theoretical Background of Reinforcement Learning 90

4. The Theoretical and Computational Underpinnings of the

Three Controllers 95

4.1. Instrumental Decision-Making 95

4.1.1. The Goal-Directed (Model-Based)

Decision-Making System 96

4.1.2. The Habit-Based (Model-Free) Decision-Making System 99

4.2. Classical Conditioning and the Pavlovian Controller 102

4.3 Summary 104

5. Interactions Between Controllers and Kinds of Weakness of Will 105

5.1. Suboptimal Interactions between the Habit-Based and 106

Goal-Directed Controllers

5.2. Interactions between the Pavlovian and Goal-Directed Controllers 112

5.2.1. Pavlovian Cognitive Weakness of Will 112

5.2.2. Pavlovian Behavioral Weakness of Will 121

6. Comparing mechanisms 128

6.1. Inter-Systemic Vs. Intra-Systemic Competition 129

6.2. Multiple Causes and Types of Weakness of Will 131

6.3. Knowledge in Weakness of Will 132

7. Conclusion 134

Chapter 5

Behavioral And Neuroscientific Evidence Supporting The Habit-Based And Pavlovian Cognitive And Behavioral Hypotheses Of Weakness Of Will

1. Introduction 136

2. Incompleteness and Types of Gray Boxes 137

2.1. The Essential Gray Box of Arbitration 139

2.2. Non-Essential Gray Boxes: Additional Types of Weakness of Will 141

2.2.1. Tonic Immobility 141

2.2.2. Vulnerabilities or Failure Modes in the 142

Decision-Making Mechanisms

3. So What? Correctness and Incorrectness 145

3.1. Behavioral Evidence 145

3.1.1. Behavioral Evidence for the 146

Pavlovian Decision-Making System

3.1.2. Evidence Distinguishing the Habit-Based and 148

Goal-Directed Controllers

3.2. Neural Evidence for the Existence of Pavlovian Values 150

3.2.1. Prediction-error signal 152

3.2.2. Action Selection: the Actor/Critic Model 154

3.2.3. Neural Underpinnings of Goal-Directed Behavior 155

4. Conclusion: Gathering Evidence for the Interactions 156

Underlying Weakness of Will

Chapter 6

Conclusion 159

Bibliography 166

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