Akrasia

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Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 07:51 am
An individual suffers from akrasia when they form an all-thing-considered judgment that they should do one thing (i.e. that they have strongest reason to do that thing) and then without changing their mind do something else instead. Sartre uses the example of an akratic gambler that cannot stop gambling even though they judged that they should stop gambling, and then say they cannot help themselves to highlight this feature of human nature.

How is it possible for you actions to come apart from you self-conscious commitment (e.g. I will no longer smoke, but smoke a cigarette anyway)?

This question goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks. According to Socrates, it is not possible to do something that you didn't believe is the best thing for you to do, because you must not have believed it in the first place. According to Aristotle it is possible, but only when one's thinking is distorted.

A better form of the question may be, how is it possible for your self-reports to come apart from what you really believe?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 08:50 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus wrote:
An individual suffers from akrasia when they form an all-thing-considered judgment that they should do one thing (i.e. that they have strongest reason to do that thing) and then without changing their mind do something else instead. Sartre uses the example of an akratic gambler that cannot stop gambling even though they judged that they should stop gambling, and then say they cannot help themselves to highlight this feature of human nature.

How is it possible for you actions to come apart from you self-conscious commitment (e.g. I will no longer smoke, but smoke a cigarette anyway)?

This question goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks. According to Socrates, it is not possible to do something that you didn't believe is the best thing for you to do, because you must not have believed it in the first place. According to Aristotle it is possible, but only when one's thinking is distorted.

A better form of the question may be, how is it possible for your self-reports to come apart from what you really believe?


Socrates thought that knowledge is virtue because he believed that if you do the wrong thing, it is because you don't know the right thing, since when you do what is wrong you are harming yourself, and no one would knowingly harm himself. As you said, Aristotle held that it is possible for someone to harm himself by doing what is wrong because of weakness of will, which is, essentially choosing short term pleasure over long term happiness.

But, don't you think that many people do the wrong even if they know what is right not because of weakness of the will (although, certainly many do that too) but because they do not believe that doing wrong will harm them, and, indeed, unless you have swallowed Plato's theory of human beings, it often does not harm you to do what is wrong. They are right. People do what is wrong sometimes because they just don't care about it. Isn't that true.
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nameless
 
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 11:05 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus;34965 wrote:
An individual suffers from akrasia ...

'Akrasia' my a$$! There is no 'free-will', there are no 'choices'. There are satisfying 'feelings' of such, though...
When the egoic illusion ('belief') is threatened, it demonizes the threat (nothing new here, a common symptom of a threatened 'belief') with a definition of 'illness' or 'syndrome' or 'heresy'!
Pffft!
 
Khethil
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 06:36 am
@Theaetetus,
Good topic...

I think the good questions posed here are all various aspects to the same phenomena.

Theaetetus wrote:
How is it possible for you actions to come apart from you self-conscious commitment (e.g. I will no longer smoke, but smoke a cigarette anyway)?


Weak commitments, most likely. But, to avoid the trap of oversimplification here; there's a couple of things to consider:

  • For anything we do, there are - at any given time - multiple (and often conflicting) goals from which to choose.


  • Which one we choose is almost never a on/off, black/white decision. The mind weighs its needs, wants and desires and comes up with a weighted, "compromised" conclusion - then it acts.


  • In the case of the smoker, who doesn't want to smoke yet does, I think this (in a generalized sense) is simply a case where the desire to quit exists, yet isn't sufficient enough to overcome the desire to continue.


  • When our commitments fail, they do so because we either lack the discipline to override competing desires.

The key to understanding this concept; I believe, is in the doer actually understanding themselves. If I decide I will not smoke another cigarette and commit to this decision, then later do it anyway, it's not because I think smoking is "better" for me. It's because my desire to smoke over-rode my desire to quit.

Hope this contributes. Thanks
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 07:29 am
@nameless,
nameless wrote:
'Akrasia' my a$$! There is no 'free-will', there are no 'choices'. There are satisfying 'feelings' of such, though...
When the egoic illusion ('belief') is threatened, it demonizes the threat (nothing new here, a common symptom of a threatened 'belief') with a definition of 'illness' or 'syndrome' or 'heresy'!
Pffft!


You mean that if I am confronted by a robber who points his gun at my head, and asks, "your money or your life?" I can't choose between my money and my life? I have been in that position and guess what I did?
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Theaetetus
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 07:41 am
@nameless,
nameless wrote:
'Akrasia' my a$$! There is no 'free-will', there are no 'choices'. There are satisfying 'feelings' of such, though...
When the egoic illusion ('belief') is threatened, it demonizes the threat (nothing new here, a common symptom of a threatened 'belief') with a definition of 'illness' or 'syndrome' or 'heresy'!
Pffft!


So what you are saying is that you did not exercise your 'free-will' to write incoherently when you had the 'choice' to do otherwise. So who or what determined that you must respond with the words that you apparently did not choose?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 08:41 am
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus wrote:
So what you are saying is that you did not exercise your 'free-will' to write incoherently when you had the 'choice' to do otherwise. So who or what determined that you must respond with the words that you apparently did not choose?


Or, for that matter, did choose.
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jgweed
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 09:27 am
@Theaetetus,
There are several kinds of decisions in such instances, and thinking about these may clarify the discussion.

There are, for example, New Year's Resolutions. What distinguishes these is that they are general envisionments: I will be kinder towards strangers, I will read a book a month, etc.,etc..
Resolutions are not about particular instances, nor do they establish workable rules, and one knows in advance that they will not always be "kept." There are neither rules for enforcement nor outside enforcers (unlike for example certain school rules) and these require for their effectiveness constant reminders (some people will print large signs for themselves and put these in a prominent place at home or work).

A second kind is a plan or project. Here we usually have a specific outcome in mind, and at least an initial sketch of the steps needed to achieve it. We may talk of milestones, or timelines, anticipate problems along the way, etc.. This means that feasibility enters into our initial thinking in a way that resolutions do not require, and it hovers around the steps we begin to take.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 01:57 pm
@Theaetetus,
I posed the question because I am reading Authority and Estrangement by Richard Moran, and the topic comes up in the book, which Jean Paul Sartre also discussed in Being and Nothingness (I think that is the right work). Sartre uses the terminology self-as-facticity vs. self-as-transcendence when asking 'What should I do?'. The former leads to a theoretical perspective on decision making or treating yourself as facticity. This leads to statements like 'I know myself well enough to know that in situations like this I tend to do A.' The latter leads to taking a deliberative perspective or treating yourself as a transcendence leading to statements like 'I see that I have the strongest reason to do A.'

The idea of akrasia brings up a lot of different subjects for discussion about the nature of commitments, decisions, plans, self-knowledge, and the first-person perspective. Not to mention, the divide between doxastic and practical deliberation.
 
nameless
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 03:52 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus;35207 wrote:
So what you are saying is that you did not exercise your 'free-will' to write incoherently when you had the 'choice' to do otherwise.

I never had a choice. I write what I must, coherent or otherwise.

Quote:
So who or what determined that you must respond with the words that you apparently did not choose?

Who determines that the rain falls down onto the Earth?
The universe is as it is. I am an inherent feature. What is, is. Every moment.
No one 'determines' anything. It's all a done deal.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 09:11 pm
@nameless,
nameless wrote:

Who determines that the rain falls down onto the Earth?
The universe is as it is. I am an inherent feature. What is, is. Every moment.
No one 'determines' anything. It's all a done deal.


You may be a feature of the universe as it is, but you are a rational agent capable of making choices pertaining to your actions. The fact that you typed a response means that you made the choice to do so. You could have yelled out your window instead. You could have taken a walk. You had the choice to do anything within your abilities. You say you write what you must, but you chose to write it.

You cannot compare your existence to rain. Rain is not aware of its surroundings. Rain does not have the choice to not accelerate towards the ground. It is an object that must be acted upon. You have the capability to act on other things. Sure the rain can affect things gravitationally speaking, but that has to do with universal properties of matter. You see the problem?

Not that that really has anything to do with akrasia...
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 10:16 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus wrote:
A better form of the question may be, how is it possible for your self-reports to come apart from what you really believe?


... maybe another form of the question is "how is it possible for your self-reports to come apart from your actions?" ... it could be that "belief" is highly variable from moment to moment, and based upon the path(s) taken ... it could be that a nonverbal path to action resolves to one "belief", whereas the verbal path to self-reporting resolves to a conflicting (but the only reported) belief ... in which case it is conceivable that a person who is not actively conducting an internal dialog and/or who's verbal attention is distracted elsewhere could act in a way that conflicts with the self-reported belief - all without violating the notion that actions must be in accord with "belief" ...
 
nameless
 
Reply Tue 25 Nov, 2008 04:18 am
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus;35396 wrote:
You may be a feature of the universe as it is, but you are a rational agent capable of making choices pertaining to your actions.

From youPerspective. Not this one.

Quote:
The fact that you typed a response means that you made the choice to do so.

According to youPerspective, not this one. You may 'define me' for your own 'world-view', but not for mine. If you 'feel' that you make choices, than that is your feeling, don't make the cognitive error of thinking that since that is your feeling, that it must also be mine. If you are a man who credits science, you will find science tends to support no possibility of 'free-will/choice'.

Quote:
You could have yelled out your window instead. You could have taken a walk.

That is an unsupportable speculative assumption. You can never know if one could do anything other than what one does. All the evidence supports what 'is', and there is NO evidence that anything else could ever have been done. It's irrational.

Quote:
You had the choice to do anything within your abilities.

That is again, an unfounded assumption.

Quote:
You say you write what you must, but you chose to write it.

So, that is your argument, a mere gainsaying of what i say? Calling me dishonest and a liar? I should respect your 'feelings', youPerspective, and you need not extend a similar courtesy?
Speak for yourself, not me. I don't dictate your 'reality' and gainsay you when you speak your reality honestly. I might ask a question, or offer this Perspective, but i don't hold you invalid.
Nevertheless, you are incorrect in your unfounded assumption. But, obviously, correct in your 'reality'. Your 'correctness of your reality does not extend beyond your 'nose'. We are all 'correct' Perspectives, but limited.

Quote:
You cannot compare your existence to rain. Rain is not aware of its surroundings.

Makes no difference, me and rain are the same substance, we are universe, moment a moment. A complete tapestry/universe every moment.

Quote:
Rain does not have the choice to not accelerate towards the ground.

Neither do you. Come on up to the roof, I'll show you... *__-

Quote:
It is an object that must be acted upon. You have the capability to act on other things.

It appears that way. Like movies appear to be actual happenings on the screen.
Vanity, vanity.. Aren't you special, you can alter the entire universe according to your desires and will and actions to get what you want. Uh huh...

Quote:
Not that that really has anything to do with akrasia...

I already offered a refutation of your vain 'akrasic' notion. Science refutes it. Mysticism refutes it. The feeling of 'free-will' is an absurdity that ego identifies with and must support, for some. It is no more than a vain 'belief' among some Perspectives. Not so for others.
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Tue 25 Nov, 2008 09:16 am
@nameless,
nameless wrote:
Science refutes it.


... and what is such a refutation really worth?

Quote:
Unless our arithmetic is to remain without application to life, we must somehow make more numerical continuity than we spontaneously find. Accordingly Lavoisier discovers his weight-units which remain the same in compounds and elements, though volume-units and quality-units all have changed. A great discovery! And modern science outdoes it by denying that compounds exist at all. There is no such thing as 'water' for 'science;' that is only a handy name for H2 and O when they have got into the position H-O-H, and then affect our senses in a novel way. The modern theories of atoms, of heat, and of gases are, in fact, only intensely artificial devices for gaining that constancy in the numbers of things which sensible experience will not show. "Sensible things are not the things for me," says Science, "because in their changes they will not keep their numbers the same. Sensible qualities are not the qualities for me, because they can with difficulty be numbered at all. These hypothetic atoms, however, are the things, these hypothetic masses and velocities are the qualities for me; they will stay numbered all the time." By such elaborate inventions, and at such a cost to the imagination, do men succeed in making for themselves a world in which real things shall be coerced per fas aut nefas under arithmetical law.
(William James in "The Principles of Psychology")

Logical Positivism is the name we give to the stance that the only valid form of knowledge is scientific knowledge ... what is the name we should give to the stance that the only valid form of reality is scientific reality? ... and given the fact that there is an immense amount of experience that cannot be somehow curve-fitted and made to be "coerced through right or wrong under arithmetical law", should we say "so much the worse for experience"? ... or should we rather say "so much the worse for science?"

Or should we look at science another way - say, as a prosthetic sense? ... after all, science lends us a disclosure of reality as filtered by the limitations of mathematics ... just like sight lends us a disclosure of reality as filtered by the limitations of optics; and sound lends us a disclosure of reality as filtered by the limitations of atmospheric waves ... and from this perspective, "reality" is not limited to what we interpret of our five senses, nor is it limited to what we interpret of science, but can rather be an interpretation of both ... ... ...
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 25 Nov, 2008 12:11 pm
@nameless,
nameless wrote:



That is an unsupportable speculative assumption. You can never know if one could do anything other than what one does. All the evidence supports what 'is', and there is NO evidence that anything else could ever have been done. It's irrational.




So, if I have taken a half mile walk every morning for the past 4 years, and I did yesterday, and I did the day before, etc. and I decide to take a half mile walk again this morning, and I feel fine, and nothing is different, I don't know that I can do it until I actually do it? It is irrational to think I can? Next time you eat, and you are about to pick up a spoon, and you think you will be able to do so, remember, it is irrational for you to think you will be able to do so.





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nameless
 
Reply Wed 26 Nov, 2008 10:34 pm
@paulhanke,
paulhanke;35487 wrote:
... and what is such a refutation really worth?

'Truth' needs nothing as base as justification. Truth is it's own justification. And by 'truth', in this sense, I refer to undertanding of the basic true nature of existence and living there in accord with the new view of 'the' universe. It tunes your perceptions. All 'truth' refutes. The biological 'truth' of germs refutes burning the local witch to cause healing. Truth is painful. Truth destroys. What is it all really worth? That is for you to determine.

Quote:
(William James in "The Principles of Psychology")

Logical Positivism is the name we give to the stance that the only valid form of knowledge is scientific knowledge ...
 
nameless
 
Reply Wed 26 Nov, 2008 10:40 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;35528 wrote:
So, if I have taken a half mile walk every morning for the past 4 years, and I did yesterday, and I did the day before, etc. and I decide to take a half mile walk again this morning, and I feel fine, and nothing is different, I don't know that I can do it until I actually do it? It is irrational to think I can?

Because you have at other times is not any guarrantee that it will happen again. Everything is different, a different universe, every moment. It is not necessarily irrational, necessarilly. But you seem to draw much conslusion from very tentative and scanty data.

Quote:
Next time you eat, and you are about to pick up a spoon, and you think you will be able to do so, remember, it is irrational for you to think you will be able to do so.

Okey dokey, then...
Actually, I don't much 'think about' whether or not I will be able to pick up the spoon, I just watch my hand and a spoon is either picked up or not. The moment in itself is sufficient. Life happens.





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Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Wed 26 Nov, 2008 10:42 pm
@nameless,
nameless wrote:
If you are a man who credits science, you will find science tends to support no possibility of 'free-will/choice'.


I hate to jump in late, but this claim seemed easy to accept. On top of being easy to accept, the claim, to my knowledge, is untrue.

I don't want to pick a debate where there isn't one, so perhaps you could expand on this?
 
nameless
 
Reply Thu 27 Nov, 2008 02:06 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas;35776 wrote:
I hate to jump in late, but this claim seemed easy to accept. On top of being easy to accept, the claim, to my knowledge, is untrue.

I don't want to pick a debate where there isn't one, so perhaps you could expand on this?

Sure, jump as thou wilt.
Rather than the fruitless attempt to convince you, or anyone, of anything, I'll offer you a bit of the evidence in my data set (there is plenty more and from diverse lines of inquiry) for your own critically (and, perhaps, 'creatively') thoughtful examination leading to your own understandings.

One line of evidence and reasoning is such that if 'motion' and 'time' are imposibilities in time/space, then there can, consequently, be no 'acts', whether in furtherance of 'free-will/choice', or otherwise. Without any 'acts' that support the egoic notion of 'free-will/choice' and 'autonomy', the 'notion' becomes moot. Nonsense.

The following links are from some different, yet convergent Perspectives regarding 'time' and 'motion';
This
Here
And here
Or perhaps here
Or maybe this
here's another on the impossibility of motion
And another and another.
And a bit more about 'time' if you wish to go a mathematical route...
Not to mention the data from Benjamin Libet's famous experiment.
That aught to be some food for thought, if you are interested.
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Thu 27 Nov, 2008 10:12 am
@nameless,
nameless wrote:
A scientist who is not a philosopher/mystic, or a philosopher who is not a scientist is a poor lowly technician at best. A very limited and stunted understanding, a very limited and stunted life.


... on this point I think we agree - after all, it's essentially a restatement of the James quote ...

nameless wrote:
That is not what I am saying. But philosophy without the grounding of science is, colloquially, crap! All the 'free-will/choice' philosophy, all the philosophy based on 'time', all the philosophy based on 'causality' is crap. Pure and simple. No matter how much it sounds intelligent, it is still 'intellishit'! It is based on base 'belief'.


... whose science? ... doesn't saying that philosophy based on time is crap also imply that science based on time is crap? - which dumps an enormous chunk of science down the crapper! ...
 
 

 
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