Weakness of Will from Plato to the Present
Imprint: Catholic University of America Press
In thirteen original essays, eminent scholars of the history of philosophy and of contemporary philosophy examine weakness of will, or incontinence—the phenomenon of acting contrary to one's better judgment. The volume covers all major periods of western philosophy, from antiquity through the Middle Ages and the modern period down to the present.
Alfred Mele and Alasdair MacIntyre examine weakness of will from a contemporary perspective. Mele addresses the issue from the vantage point of Libertarianism. MacIntyre argues against the widespread view that actions that are out of character require special explanation, and reinterprets weakness of will as a failure to use moral lapses for moral progress. The other authors critically engage accounts of weakness of will by past philosophers: Kenneth Dorter writes on Plato, Terence H. Irwin on Aristotle, Lloyd Gerson on Plotinus, James Wetzel on Augustine, Denis J. M. Bradley on Aquinas, Tobias Hoffmann on Henry of Ghent, Giuseppe Mazzotta on Dante, Ann Hartle on Montaigne, John C. McCarthy on Descartes, Thomas E. Hill Jr. on Kant, and Tracy B. Strong on Nietzsche.
The philosophical examination of weakness of will highlights central problems of action theory, such as the connections between desire, conviction, and action, between intellect and will, and between rationality and emotions. It also addresses important ethical issues such as the diversity of character dispositions, moral progress and moral education, the limits of virtue, and moral responsibility.
The historical and contemporary perspectives offered in this volume will enrich current debates, not only by suggesting answers, but also by broadening the usual range of questions about weakness of will. Owing to the intimate connection of the topic with other key themes in moral philosophy, the historical and thematic studies contained in this book also provide an overview of moral philosophy as a whole.
"Hoffmann's collection shows that every thinker who discusses akrasia, from Socrates to Alasdair MacIntyre, at least trends towards either the Socratic or the Pauline view... Hoffmann is to be congratulated on assembling a first-rate collection, one which will broaden immeasurably our understanding of what is, after all, probably an inescapable fact of the human condition."~Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"As the title indicates, the study moves thematically and historically from Plato to the present day.... The theme of weakness of the will is approached from a variety of perspectives, in greater textual detail, and with an enhanced connection to present-day concerns.... [The authors] write in dialogue with the central theme of akrasia, offering a rich perspective on a problem that is clearly of interest to contemporary philosophers.... This is an important volume that expands our understanding of Western philosophers and their relationship to Aristotelian and Christian traditions. Of particular historical interest are those essays that take a creative approach to familiar figures (Plato, Augustine, Plotinus, Descartes), those that offer new critical insights to key thinkers (Aristotle, Henry of Ghent, Montaigne) and those whose discussion enhances the topic under consideration (Dante, Aquinas, Kant, and Nietzsche).... [W]hile the volume itself may not exhaust the subject in the sense that it offers any type of solution to the phenomenon of the weak will (as MacIntyre argues, there may not be one), it does expand and enhance our understanding of and appreciation for individual philosophers and for the rich legacy of reflection on a topic of enduring interest."~Thomist
"This excellent collection is an essential work in history of ethics and moral psychology."~Metapsychology
"The great virtue of this collection of essays on the problem of weakness of will is that it shows how tremendously diverse are the conceptions of belief, desire, and will that have informed debates about the possibility and explanation of akrasia."~International Philosophical Quarterly
"With this book, an important step is taken towards extending the discussion of the history of weakness of will to a larger group of students and scholars, whether philosophers, theologians, or intellectual historians."~Journal of the History of Philosophy