, Volume 190, Issue 18, pp 4077–4093 | Cite as

Weakness of will, reasonability, and compulsion

  • James R. BeebeEmail author


Experimental philosophers have recently begun to investigate the folk conception of weakness of will (e.g., Mele in Philos Stud 150:391–404, 2010; May and Holton in Philos Stud 157:341–360, 2012; Beebe forthcoming; Sousa and Mauro forthcoming). Their work has focused primarily on the ways in which akrasia (i.e., acting contrary to one’s better judgment), unreasonable violations of resolutions, and variations in the moral valence of actions modulate folk attributions of weakness of will. A key finding that has emerged from this research is that—contrary to the predominant view in the history of philosophy—ordinary participants do not think of weakness of will solely in terms of akrasia but see resolution violations and moral evaluations as playing equally important roles. The present article extends this line of research by reporting the results of four experiments that investigate (i) the interplay between hastily revising one’s resolutions and the degree of reasonableness of the actions one had resolved to undertake, (ii) whether ordinary participants are willing to ascribe weakness of will to agents whose actions stem from compulsion or addiction, and (iii) the respects in which akratic action, resolution violations, and the seriousness of an addiction impact attributions of weakness of will to agents acting in accord with their addictions.


Weakness of will Akrasia Intention Compulsion Addiction Experimental philosophy Folk psychology 



Thanks to Frank Hindriks, Al Mele, Kevin Timpe, and two anonymous reviewers from Synthese for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. Thanks also to Mark Alfano and Mark Phillips for assistance in setting up the experiments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity at BuffaloNew YorkUSA

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