Event Detail

Thu Nov 21, 2013
Howison Library, 4:10–6 PM
Graduate Research Colloquium
Eugene Chislenko (UC-Berkeley)
Akratic Action under the Guise of the Good

Many people have believed that action essentially aims at the good. Others have thought this view to be hopelessly naïve, and too narrow to account for many of the most common and interesting forms of activity. On such a view, for example, it is notoriously difficult to explain how we can act akratically, or against our own better judgment. I defend a strong version of the “guise of the good” view, on which intentional action requires a belief that one ought to perform the action. Using a criticism of Donald Davidson’s view of akrasia, I raise the possibility of explaining akratic action by conflicting normative beliefs: a belief that one ought to do something, and a belief that one ought not. I then answer concerns that this explanation is insufficiently explanatory, attributes too much conflict, attributes mistakes about one’s own beliefs, and leaves out an essential asymmetry in action against one’s ‘better’ judgment. On the contrary, appealing to conflicting beliefs reduces one problem to another, helps explain why akratic action is puzzling, attributes a small but plausible amount of error in self-attribution, and leaves room for various forms of asymmetry.