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Against your Better Judgement – Panel discussion on akrasia

January 31, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Pensées canadiennes presents: Against your Better Judgement

What: Panel discussion on akrasia with Amelie Rorty, Sarah Stroud and Christine Tappolet

When: Saturday, Febuary 16, 2013, 11am to 12:45pm (at Philopolis)

Where: Pavillon J.-A.-Desève, UQAM, room ETH II

Click here to see Philopolis’ webpage for the event.

This panel talk is about “akrasia”, sometimes called weakness of will, with three of the foremost philosophers working on the topic in the last thirty years: Amelie Rorty of Boston University and Harvard, Sarah Stroud of McGill, and Christine Tappolet of UdeM. Amelie Rorty’s Mind in Action and a book she edited, Explaining Emotions, help provide the background for Sarah Stroud and Christine Tappolet’s coedited 2003 book Weakness of Will and Practical Irrationality, as well as Prof. Tappolet’s book co-edited with Luc Faucher The Modularity of Emotions, published as a supplement to the Canadian Journal of Philosophy.

The foundational questions in this talk are how and why we fail to do what we think is best. An account of acting willfully against one’s better judgement has consequences for the philosophy of emotion and theories of rational deliberation, besides fitting into virtue ethics and meta-ethics. Plato and Aristotle introduced the debate on akrasia, after Plato discussed it in the Protagoras, where Socrates claims it is impossible.”It is not in human nature to do so – to wish to go after what one thinks to be evil in preference to the good” (Plato, Protagoras, 358d); if you don’t do the good, you must not really know it. A new examination appeared in Donald Davidson’s seminal 1970 paper “How is Weakness of Will Possible?”. Davidson’s work on the topic intersects with a revision of thought about emotion taking place simultaneously in economics and other disciplines. Some years on, accounts of akrasia are as popular as ever. Recently, Professor Stroud and Professor Tappolet have respectively published reviews of a book by Richard Holton and another by Sergio Tenenbaum, that address the puzzle. After more than two thousand years of inquiry into the phenomenon, the jury is still out.

The panelists will be asked, among other things, to discuss the possibility of akrasia, types of cases, and the role of habit and emotion. We will prompt them to discuss how different accounts have played out historically and what they suggest about meta-ethics. Finally, we’ll ask them whether we should approach akrasia as metaphysicians or as psychologists; should we try to explain it (or explain it away), or should we try to treat it? The talk is for those who sometimes do otherwise than they think is best, so we understand more about how such a thing is possible and what to do about it.

Organized by Pensées canadiennes, the Canadian Undergraduate Journal of Philosophy, with generous contributions from our sponsors. A partial transcript from the talk will be published in this year’s edition of Pensées, available this Spring, as well as on our website, penseescanadiennes.com.

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