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Motivated Irrationality Author(s): D. F. Pears and David Pugmire Source: Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, Vol.

56 (1982), pp. 157-196 Published by: Wiley on behalf of The Aristotelian Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4106930 . Accessed: 05/05/2013 14:51
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MOTIVATED IRRATIONALITY D. F. Pears and David Pugmire


I--D. F. Pears
1. This paper starts from the intuition, not shared by all philosophers who have written on the subject, that the irrationality of an action is not so great an obstacle to its performance as the irrationality of a belief is to its formation. Its goal is to explain this difference between action and belief by pointing to other differences between them. Most of the arguments used in it will be inconclusive, because their premises can be, and probably will be challenged by those who do not share the intuition. They are likely to defend their view, that the obstacle is much the same in both cases, by denying the other differences between them cited in support of the intuition. It is difficult to find firm ground in this area. However, even if few of the premises accepted in this paper are indisputable, it may succeed in showing that they are the ones that would be needed to explain why the irrationality of an action is not so great an obstacle to its performance as the irrationality of a belief is to its formation. This intuition is usually presented as a clear deliverance of common-sense and the arguments that are put up for scrutiny are usually arguments against it. So it may be useful to develop some arguments on its side, even if their premises are not beyond dispute. The ramifications of the intuition are worth exploring for their own sake, whatever its ultimate fate. It is in any case instructive to put irrational action in its place on a larger map of human eccentricities. It has often been discussed in isolation and the effect has been to make it seem too strikingly and intractably paradoxical. It may be easier to understand if it is placed beside irrational belief-formation and if both are analyzed in detail and, as it were, competitively. No great claim is made for the comparison developed in this paper. Certainly, it does not yield a proof that Socrates and his modern followers are wrong, but it may serve to start a more expansive discussion of some familiar philosophical topics.

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2. There are several differentkinds of irrationality in action and this paper will be concerned with only one kind, namely internal irrationality. An internally irrational action is one that does not fit the factual beliefs and valuations or desires with which the agent is equipped at the time. His equipment is taken as given and no judgement is passed on it. The point is only that his action does not fit it. It is important that the dynamic part of the agent's equipment may either be a valuation or a mere desire. These two things are not the same, however closely they may be connected with one another. The examples that will be used will nearly always involve a valuation, so that internal irrationality may be examined in its most extreme and striking form. It looks as if the topic is akrasia, and so it is, given two provisos. One is that "akrasia" must not be mistranslated "weakness of will".' It means "not being in command of oneself" and, as Aristotle pointed out, weakness is only one of its possible causes. He identified impetuousness as its other cause2 and it may well be that these two do not exhaust the possibilities. Anyway, akrasiaitself should not be confused with any of its causes. It is, as Aristotle said, something like a deficiency in the executive of a city that has an adequate legislature.3 The second proviso is a more complicated matter. When someone acts with internal irrationality against his own better judgement, his action will be the product of a rebellious desire. But suppose that we ask where the irrationality actually began. One possibility to be considered is that he simply acted against the judgement that it would be better to do something else. That would be last ditch irrationality and some philosophers argue that it is not a real possibility. Another possibility is that the irrationality began as a mistake in the agent's reasoning. If that is what happened, we need to know the cause of that mistake. Here too there are two possibilities. The cause may have been the same rebellious desire that produced the action, in which case the mistake in reasoning would be an example of motivated irrational belief-formation. Alternatively, the cause may have been purely intellectual. These last two possibilities present us with a choice. Should we include both types of case under the heading "motivated irrational action" on the ground that in both the action is motivated and internally irrational? Or

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should we only include the first kind of case on the ground that in it alone the irrationality is motivated at its point of origin? Evidently, our choice in this matter will affect the relationship between motivated irrational action and akrasia. It is natural to intend the word "motivated" to function as an attributive adjective in the phrase "motivated irrational action" and to require the irrationality to be motivated at its point of origin. That produces a divergence between motivated irrational action and Aristotelian akrasia. For a slip in reasoning that was unusual for the agent might be produced not by a motive but by impetuousness and this seems to be the way in which Aristotle supposed that impetuousness causes akrasia. If that was his view, he could still preserve the idea that akrasia must be caused by a fault of character without imposing the strong requirement that it must be caused by a motive at its point of origin. An irrational action would not count as akratic if the origin of its irrationality was the formation of an irrational belief as a result of habitual incompetence or an unlucky slip, but it would count as akratic if its origin was the formation of an irrational belief as a result of a fault of character, even if no motive was involved at that point. That may have been Aristotle's view and it may be shared by those who use the word "akrasia" today. If so, the phrase "motivated irrational action" does not apply to all cases of akrasia. So the second proviso is that motivated irrational action must not be equated with akrasia, unless the extension of the concept of akrasia is restricted by the strong requirement that the irrationality must be motivated at its point of origin. A question of substance arises at this point. Why start with the restricted field of motivated irrational action? The main reason for this strategy is that it yields a clear contrast with motivated irrational belief-formation. Purely intellectual faults are at first excluded on both sides and motivated faults in the performance of actions are contrasted with motivated faults in the formation of beliefs. It is no objection to this strategy that it may lead to the neglect of certain kinds of akrasia. That was in any case inevitable. Aristotle included misperception among the immediate causes of akrasia and that seems to indicate that he did not even restrict the concept to cases in which the point of origin of an irrational

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action is itself a piece of internal irrationality, because, though misperception is an error,it is not one that is relative to anything in the observer's mind. In fact, the examples of motivated irrational action that will be considered will all belong to an even narrower range than the one produced by the proposed restriction. When an example is used to illustrate a fault in the agent's reasoning, the fault will always be motivated by the same rebellious desire that produced the action. The reason for this restriction is that it concentrates attention on the most common way in which a motivated fault in reasoning is connected with a motivated irrational action. It can not often happen that the rebellious desire that produces the action inherits a situation in which the obstacle to its gratification has already been removed by another desire. If there is a price to be paid for excluding purely intellectual faults, it is on the other side, in the analysis of belief-formation. The most recent trend in psychology has been to concentrate on irrational beliefs produced by unmotivated faults, the so-called "cold cases", and, as will appear later, it is necessary in the end to include purely intellectual causes of irrational belief in the scope of the inquiry. Nevertheless, the best strategy is to start with motivated irrational belief-formation, in order to establish a clear contrast. Here too we need concern ourselves only with the internal irrationality of a belief that does not fit other beliefs with which the person is already equipped. No judgement is passed on his equipment and the belief is judged internally irrational only because it does not fit it. Incidentally, the motive need not be a simple wish and in anxiety and jealousy it is something more complex. The concept of internally irrational belief-formation has a less elaborate structure than the concept of internally irrational action. It always involves a lack of fit between beliefs, but, as we have seen, there are two quite differentways in which internally irrational action may be produced. The action may simply fail to fit the agent's value-judgement about the particular predicament, or the irrationality may have begun at some earlier point as a lack of fit between consecutive beliefs in his reasoning. So internally irrational belief-formation always involves homogeneous misfit between beliefs, while internally irrational action

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may involve the same kind of homogeneous misfit, or it may involve heterogeneous misfit. The concept of internally irrational belief-formation may seem to be the same as the concept of self-deception. There is something in this, because the concept of self-deception does apply to the kind of motivated counter-evidential belief that counts as internally irrational. However, the converse is not true, because there is another common type of self-deception in which the motive does not bias a person'sassessmentof evidence but, rather, his monitoring of his own feelings, intentions and valuations. In such cases what occurs is something like misperception and the fault that marks the self-deceptive belief is not its failure to fit some other belief already in his mind. So motivated irrational belief-formation must not be equated with self-deception, but only with one species of self-deception. Nevertheless, in what follows it will be called "self-deception" for the sake of brevity. No harm will be done provided that the restrictionof the concept of self-deception is understood and the irrationality is always taken to consist in homogeneous misfit. Similarly, internally irrational action will be called "akrasia" with the proviso that the irrationality must originate in a fault caused by a desire, and, what is more, by the same desire that is then divided into two main motivates the action itself. Akrasia the irrationality consists in in which last-ditch akrasia, types, and self-deceptive akrasia, in which it heterogeneous misfit, misfit. The vague concepts of fit and in originates homogeneous misfit will be made more precise later. 3. Suppose that the intuition is correct and that the irrationality of an action really is a lesser obstacle to its performance than the irrationality of a belief is to its formation. How could that be explained? First, it is obvious that, if irrationality is capable of functioning as an obstacle, it must be a type of irrationality that the person is, in general, competent to detect and that, if it actually functions as an obstacle in a particular case, he must actually detect it. There are mistakesin reasoning that some people make habitually because they are not competent to diagnose them and, even if they have the competence, they may occasionally be unlucky and overlook them. In both these types of case there is

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no need to seek a motive for the failure. They look like cold cases and, unless there is overdetermination, they are cold cases. It would be an exaggeration to say that only conscious irrationality functions as an obstacle, because preconscious irrationality can be just as effective. However the clearest cases are conscious and they are the ones to be considered here. Now conscious irrationality is paradoxical only if it is avoidable. There is nothing surprising about a consciously irrational belief that is truly obsessional or a consciously irrational action that is truly compulsive. So let us take it that in both cases the irrationality is not only conscious but also avoidable. What would explain the supposed difference between its effectiveness as an obstacle to the formation of a belief and as an obstacle to the performance of an action? It is immediately obvious that there cannot be any difference when the irrationality of the action originates in a motivated fault in the agent's reasoning. For in that kind of case the motive will bias his conclusion about some matter of fact, or perhaps, as in Davidson's theory, about the value of a particular action, and the biassing will just be an example of irrational beliefformation. Self-deceptive akrasia cannot be easier than plain self-deception because the difficult achievement is the same in both cases. If a difference exists it must be between self-deception and last-ditch akrasia. It is, therefore, these two that should be compared with one another. Now philosophers working in this area usually focus onto the paradoxes of irrationality. How can anyone act against his own better judgement or form a belief that goes against his own evidence? These paradoxes are important, but there is also another source of irrationality that ought to be considered first, the origins of action and belief. It is arguable that motivated irrational action is easier than motivated irrational belief-formation, because a desire is at least a generally appropriate cause for an action but it is a completely inappropriate cause for a belief. If we are going to establish this difference, we must temporarily circumvent the paradoxes of irrationality. For how can we be sure that, from a certain point of view, one achievement is easier than another, if we are distracted by the thought that they may both be impossible from another point of view?

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The best strategy here is to use an idea of Davidson's.4 He describes a type of self-deceptive akrasiain which the agent's premises do not actually entail the value-judgement that they indicate to be the rational one to make about the particular predicament and so, under the influence of a rebellious desire, he is able to make the opposite value-judgement without contradicting himself. In this kind of case he has enough latitude to draw a consciously irrational conclusion. He makes a wishful action, which he then guess at the objective value of the akratic goes on to perform without inhibition. This concept of latitude is useful, because it allows us to circumvent the paradox of irrationality and to concentrate on the wishfulness of the agent's thinking. Davidson applies the concept to cases of akrasia,but the kind of self-deception that exploits latitude need not serve akrasia.The point is a general one: the formation of a consciously irrational belief is not impossible when a person's other beliefs allow him to form it without self-contradiction. Naturally, his latitude will diminish as his premises become stronger and make the opposite belief more probable, but it will not vanish altogether until they actually entail the opposite belief. Latitude reduces one of the obstacles to motivated irrational belief-formation, but the other one still remains. The belief is caused by a wish-entirely, if there is no overdeterminationand, if the person is conscious of its completely inappropriate causation, it is likely to begin to evaporate. For wishes are not reliable causes of true beliefs. There is, therefore, a strong tendency for the causation of a self-deceptive belief to be kept out of consciousness. Perhaps, the self-deceiver will persuade himself that the cause is really intuition, which he may regard as the reliable processingof half noticed clues. Certainly, he cannot admit that its sole cause is a wish without the risk of losing it. Now let us look at the other phenomenon, last-ditch, consciously irrational but avoidable action, if indeed such a thing is possible. As before, we need a case that allows latitude, so that we may reduce one source of irrationality in order to be able to concentrate attention on the other. But how are we going to introduce latitude into a case of heterogeneous misfit? So far, it has been introduced only as a feature of the relation between beliefs, where the fit and misfit are homogeneous.

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In cases of last-ditch akrasia the action fails to fit the valuejudgement that terminates the agent's deliberation, because it fails to satisfy the specification contained in that value-judgement. So the way to introduce latitude at this point is to take a case in which this specification is difficult to apply to an action. The agent is inclined to think that it would apply to a certain action, but he is not quite sure about it. His uncertainty about this fit then gives him the latitude to perform an action that fails to fit his value-judgement without the certainty that he is doing SO. If the concept of latitude is extended in this way to cases of heterogeneous misfit, it undergoes a big change. The latitude in a case of homogeneous misfit is objective latitude. The selfdeceiver knows that his belief conflicts with the evidence contained in his other beliefs, but, because he also knows that the evidence is inconclusive, he is able to make a wishful guess at the objective matter of fact or value. The situation is quite different when the misfit is heterogeneous. In that case the latitude is subjective, because it results from the agent's uncertainty whether his action does or does not fit his valuejudgement. He is inclined to think that it does, but his residual doubt gives his latitude. So in homogeneous cases he knows that there is misfit between his beliefs, but he also knows that he may still be doing the right thing, whereas in heterogeneous cases his only reason for thinking that he may be doing the right thing is that he is not certain that his action fails to fit his valuejudgement. It follows that, when last-ditch akrasia is the result of latitude, the agent's knowledge of the two items which are supposed to, but do not fit one another, is incomplete. He does not know for sure that the specification in his value-judgement fails to fit his action and so he does not know for sure that his action fails to fit his value-judgement. All that he knows for sure is that these misfits are possible, or, perhaps, likely. The irrationality of the kind of last-ditch akrasia that exploits subjective latitude is conscious only under the description "doing what may well fail to fit my value-judgement". The change that the concept of latitude undergoes when it is extended in this way raises some interesting questions. When an observer makes a quick response to perceptual cues and then immediately feels a doubt about its accuracy, but reassures

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himself that it may be accurate, is he exploiting objective or subjective latitude? In cases where there is no subjective latitude, is it more difficult to believe that a specification fits a thing when in fact it does not fit it than it is to perform an action that does not fit a value-judgement? The first of these two questions will be left undiscussed, but the second will be answered later. Whatever the answers, it is quite clear that there is a kind of latitude in certain cases of last-ditch akrasia and that it can only be subjective. Its relevance to the present inquiry is that it allows us to circumvent the paradoxes of irrationality and concentrate on the question whether the causation of such actions is generally appropriate. The answer is that it is generally appropriate. Even if a particular desire ought not to have taken over the control of intentional action, it is at least a generally appropriate cause for such an effect. Consequently there is no reason why the type of causation of a motivated intentional action should function as an obstacle as soon as the agent becomes conscious of it. This yields a sharp contrast with motivated irrational belief-formation. A desire is a completely inappropriate cause for a belief and so, if its operation is not kept out of consciousness, it will function as an obstacle to belief-formation. Therefore, if we assume that the person is conscious of the causation in both cases, this is one simple way in which motivated irrational action is easier than motivated irrational belief-formation. This difference would vanish if we chose unmotivated irrational belief-formation as the object for comparison. The faults to be compared with the faults that produce akrasiawould then be purely intellectual or "cold". The cause of an irrational belief would be generally appropriate but its operation would be faulty. The reasoning would be pure, but it might be incompetent, because, for example, the person did not know how to deal with statistical evidence. Or a piece of evidence might be relevant, but he might attach too much weight to it because it possessed the eye-catching property, salience. This last possibility is really quite like what happens in certain cases of last-ditch akrasia: a desire, such as the desire to retaliate in anger, prevails against the agent's better judgement because it possesses the willcaptivating property, intensity-or so it seems. If we want to focus attention onto the internal irrationality of

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actions and beliefs, the best strategy is to compare unmotivated irrational belief-formationwith last-ditch akrasia. By comparing like with like we shall equalize the chances of any irrationality resulting from the causation in the two cases and we shall be able to concentrate without distraction on their internal irrationality. In the remainder of the paper this will be the strategy. 4. Suppose that someone did act against his own better judgement avoidably and without any subjective latitude and, therefore, with full consciousnessof the misfit. What would that be like? One suggestion, frequent in philosophical discussions of this extreme type of last-ditch akrasia, is that it would be like accepting the conjunction of two contradictory beliefs in spite of knowing them to be contradictory. Now that would be the limiting case of the paradox of irrationality. A sane person can exploit objective latitude and believe the conjunction of a proposition expressing his evidence and a proposition that he knows to be improbable in relation to it, but, when there is no objective latitude and the proposition is impossible given some other proposition that he believes, he cannot believe the conjunction--unless, of course, there is subjective latitude and he does not see the impossibility. So we close this last loophole by taking a simple contradiction as an example, or by explicitly stipulating that the believer does see the impossibility. Then the suggestion is that this kind of case is the true analogue of lastditch akrasiacommitted without any subjective latitude, and, therefore, with full consciousness of the misfit, and the conclusion is that no sane person can act in this way. The opposite suggestion, to be developed here, is that the irrationality of this kind of action is not so great an obstacle to its performanceas the irrationality of the supposedly parallel belief is to its formation. The idea is that even when there is no subjective latitude and last-ditch akrasiais committed in full consciousness, it is still not quite like the limiting case of irrational belief-formation. Two connected differences will be established. One is a differencebetween the types of irrationality involved and the other is a difference between the things that set the standard of fit in the two cases.

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The first of the two suggestions is familiar and it needs no introduction, but the second one, which is opposed to it, is less familiar and it might be useful to introduce it in a general way before getting involved in the details. When an action fails to fit the kind of value-judgement that terminates the agent's deliberation, it is, of course, irrational, but the suggestion to be developed is that its irrationality is not like the irrationality of perversebelief-formation. That involves, in the limiting case, believing something impossible, but the irrationality of perverse action is quite different. The action is irrational because it is unreasonable and it is unreasonable only in the sense that it does not obey reason. It is not an element in the agent's reasoning and so it cannot be faulted in anything like the way in which we fault the conclusion of a piece of theoretical reasoning or an inconsistent set of beliefs. The agent's reasoning terminates with his singular value-judgement about his particular predicament and then his action is irrational only in the sense that it is not ruled by this edict of reason. That is the difference between the types of irrationality involved in the two cases.5 The other, connected difference between the two cases is a difference between the two things that set the standard of fit, the will and the world. The will is not fully integrated and in a typical case of last-ditch akrasiaan unruly desire takes over the control of intentional action and constitutes the will. This usurpation, which occurs after the desire has been defeated in deliberation, does not have to last very long, because the action is soon performed.The success of the desire is often attributable to a secondary property like last-minute intensity. The closest analogue is to be found in those cases of irrational beliefformation in which a piece of evidence that ought to be defeated in fact prevails, because it possesses a secondary property like salience. However, the analogy is not perfect, because the world, which sets the standard of fit for beliefs, is fully integrated, or rather it does not make sense to suppose that it is not. For when an observer discovers that his judgement is being biassed by salience, the biassing is automatically corrected. There is no question of conflict in the world. Of course, the available evidence may conflict and the observer's judgement may be

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baffled, but the truth is single and stable and it is the only thing that he wants. This is why any biassing produced by salience is corrected automatically as soon as it is noticed. Judgement homes onto apparent truth. Action behaves differently. It does not home onto apparent value and the biassing effect of lastminute intensity is not automatically corrected as soon as it is noticed. The point that is most difficult to establish in all this is the nature of the take-over. A rebellious desire is supposed to take over the control of intentional action without making the agent a prisoner, and-a different point-without making the action unavoidable. But how can that happen? It is possible for the action to be unforced only if the will is not fully integrated. So the idea is that, when a desire that has been defeated in deliberation takes over the control of intentional action, it does not put external pressure on the will. Rather, it constitutes the will in spite of the fact that it does not conform to the agent's better judgement and does not even pretend to do so. To put the point in another way, the executive element in the agent is, for the time being, the rebellious desire, even if his reasoned judgement is that he should not identify with it. The will, which is the source of intentional action is not the natural servant of a single master, reason, and so intentional action that does not fit the agent's reasoned view of the best thing to do is not, therefore, forced action. Many philosophers reject this idea6 and, no doubt, it would be incredible if reason were coeval with intentional action. For if reasoned judgment had been the first constituent of the will to evolve, it would almost certainly have remained the unique master, because it is more successful in achieving its goals. In that case, unforced intentional action would always fit the agent's view, however short-lived, of the best thing to do. In fact, there are other constituents of the will that evolved earlier and they can still take their seat at the control of intentional action without using force. Physical appetites were obviously the firstof the earlier constituents and emotions like fear and anger, with their associated desires, came later. Not surprisingly, these desires are, as Aristotle implied, the most conspicuous causes of akrasia.They are, of course, desires that, on the whole, produce good results for their possessorsbut not because they are guided

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by reason. They represent inflexible, stereotypical strategies that have proved successful on the whole. The avoidability of most akraticaction is another matter. Those who deny it presumably do not rest their case on universal determinism. They treat the rebellious desire as both alien and irresistible. Now on any view of human nature there are some alien desires, but they do not include ordinary physical appetites or the natural desires associated with fear and anger. In any case, an alien desire is not always irresistible.In the next section something will be said about the view that in all cases of without any subjective latitude the desire must last-ditch akrasia have been irresistible.If the suggestion developed in this section is correct, the question ought not to be posed in this way. For if the rebellious desire constitutes the will, the only sense in which it is alien is that the agent's reasonedjudgement is that he should not identify with it. In that case, the question is not whether it is irresistible, but whether it inevitably prevails when it does prevail. The answer to the question in this form too should be negative, because, if we do not invoke universal determinism, we have no reason for attributing inevitability to this particular class of events. 5. How does this model of unforced last-ditch akrasiawithout any subjective latitude fare against the familiar arguments for the rival model which allows no place for this possibility? There is one very simple philosophical argument that is often used against it and in support of the rival model. It is claimed that there are only two possible explanations of last-ditch akrasia:either there was subjective latitude or inability to do anything else. Taken as an intuition about language, this is hardly beyond dispute. Certainly, it does not command the general assent that it would need in order to defeat the considerations that have been put forward on the other side. At the very least, it requires supporting arguments. In fact, most of the arguments that have been offered in support of it are unconvincing. Value-judgements are said to guide actions, but they can guide them without such a high degree of success. Or they are said to entail imperatives, but the commitment with which imperatives are issued may be greater than the commitment with which they are received, even when

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the recipient is the same person as the issuer. Or akrasia is equated with weaknessand weaknesswith absolute inability, but both equations are mistaken.7 There is, however, one argument that might give stronger support to the simple intuition about language, and that is the argument for the first of the two suggestions put forward in the previous section. If last-ditch akrasiacommitted without any subjective latitude really could be shown to be like believing the conjunction of two propositions known to be contradictory, it would not be a possibility for a sane agent. This would be an argument based on the nature of things. Instead of merely founding the simple behavioural criterion of really judging a certain action better on a dubious intuition, it tells us why the achievement that would violate the criterion is impossible. The mechanism that is supposed to make it impossible is intellectual and so the disposition to act in conformity to one's own better judgement has an intellectual basis. The agent sees the impossibility of acting otherwise,just as he sees that it is impossible that two contradictory propositions should both be true. There is, of course, a difference between the two cases which will have to be examined later, in order to find out whether it invalidates the argument: in the first case the person cannot combine two things because he sees the impossibility of their combination, but in the second case he cannot combine two things because he sees the impossibility of something else, namely what they represent when they are combined. However, in both cases the obstacle to his doing what he cannot do is intellectual. There is, therefore, a sharp contrast with a disposition like katatonia, where the impossibility of acting does not have an intellectual basis. The remainder of this paper will be concerned with this argument and it will try to assess the effects of the differences between last-ditch akrasiawithout latitude and the supposedly analogous case of perverse belief-formation. There are, in fact, two versions of the argument in the field. One maintains that performing an intentional action is, or involves making the congruent value-judgement that it is better so to act.' This may be called "the propositional theory". According to the other version, actions neither are, nor involve propositions, but they are like them, because they take pre-

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dicates like the semantic predicates, "true" and "false".' This may be called "the quasi-propositional theory". The claim made by the propositional theory is clear enough, but it is more the quasi-propositionaltheory. difficult to understandand assess, If the propositional theory is right, akrasiathat appears to be last-ditch cannot really be last-ditch, because it is impossible for the fault to occur between the final value-judgement and the action. It follows that, after the agent has made a valuejudgement, if he does not change his mind about it, no action of his can even produce the illusion of last-ditch akrasia,because that would require him to make two contradictory valuejudgements almost in the same breath. So the nearest that is to commit a fault at the last anyone can get to last-ditch akrasia within his reasoning. That is the argument of possible location Davidson's article "How is Weaknessof the Will possible?"0and its conclusion is that the fault that is committed when the agent makes his final value-judgement is facilitated by the latitude that always exists at that point. This argument depends on the thesis that performing an intentional action is, or involves making a congruent valuejudgement." Now this thesis is vulnerable to counter-examples in which the agent does something merely because he wants to do it without also judging it better to do it. However, the counter-examples are usually, and possibly always actions that the agent regards as unimportant and that is why he makes no valuation either way. On the other hand, in all cases ofakrasiahe will have made an incongruent value-judgement and that indicates that he does regard the matter as sufficiently important to merit a value-judgement. This might suggest that he will not be able to perform the action without the support of a congruent value-judgement. However, it cannot be right to use this suggestion as a premise in a reductive argument for the impossibilityof last-ditch akrasia without latitude. If it is not generally necessary for intentional actions to be supported by congruent value-judgements, why should we regard the importance of the predicament as a special factor that makes it necessary in this particular case? The importance of the predicament produced its effect when the agent made the incongruent value-judgement. We may wonder how he could then succeed in doing the akraticaction, but it is

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equally plausible to suppose that, if he did it, he would not contradict himself by making the congruent value-judgement. Certainly, it would be illegitimate to make the opposite supposition in an argument for the impossibility of last-ditch akrasiawithout latitude. There is no comparable weakness in the argument for the quasi-propositional theory, which does not try to connect intentional actions with judgements, but makes the very different claim that they are likejudgements. More precisely, it claims that the action is the conclusion of the agent's practical reasoning and that it takes predicates like the semantic predicates "true" and "false", which apply to theoretical conclusions. Let us call these predicates "quasi-truth" and "quasifalsity". Then the idea is that it is as difficult to combine a singular value-judgement with an action that does not fit it as it is to believe the conjunction of two contradictory propositions. Now it is so obvious that two contradictory propositions cannot both be true that it is hardly necessary to stipulate that the person must be conscious of the impossibility. No sane person can believe their conjunction. Similarly, the argument goes, it is impossible for a singular value-judgement to be true and for the action to be quasi-true, and the conclusion is that no sane akratic person can produce this couple either. If this argument were cogent it really would prove that lastditch akrasiawithout latitude is impossible for sane agents. Its validity depends on the closeness of the analogy on which it relies and that, in its turn, depends on the definitions of "quasitrue" and "quasi-false". Professor Anscombe, in an interpretation of Aristotle's account of practical reasoning,"3 suggests that an action may be called "true" when it fits a value-judgement validly deduced from premises that are true in the ordinary way. If this is what quasi-truth is, there is no doubt about the value of performing quasi-true actions. But why call them that? One reason, not attributable to Anscombe, is that it might seem to give more substance to the analogy exploited by the quasi-propositional theory. However, that is easily seen to be an illusion. It is said, quite correctly, that it is impossiblefor the value-judgement to be true and for the akraticaction to be quasi-true. But is the reason for

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this impossibility the sort of reason that would make it impossible for any sane person to combine a true valuejudgement with an akratic action without calling the latter "quasi-true"? Apparently not. Certainly, the combination of incongruent value-judgement and action does not purport to representanything. So we obviously cannot use a truth-table to demonstrate that nothing could satisfy it and that, therefore, no sane person could produce it as an expression of his belief. A more interesting suggestion would be that, though the combination does not representanything, it does something else which is like representingand can be tested in a similar way. But what could this other thing be? It has to be something that is done by the action, by the value-judgement and by their combination, but nothing seems to fill the bill. Anyway, the action cannot be tested independently of the value-judgement, which its quasi-truth, by definition, requires it to fit. The case is exactly the opposite with the value-judgement: it can be tested for truth independently of the action, but its truth is irrelevant to the internal rationality of the action. So if quasi-truth is defined in Anscombe's way, it is an illusion to suppose that it explains the connection between value-judgement and action on the analogy with the connection between two beliefs. The relevant part of the definition of quasi-truth merely makes it necessary that a quasi-true action should fit the value-judgement but it does nothing to show that it is impossible to combine the valuejudgement with an action that does not fit it. In fact, Anscombe introduced the concept of the truth of actions to mean "reasoned correctness". An action is true when it fits a value-judgement validly deduced from true premises. It is clear that this concept presupposes and, therefore, cannot explain the concept of fitting. If we want to understand the concept of fitting, it is better to start from the idea on which Anscombe's book Intention"was based and to discard the concept of quasi-truth. Her fundamental idea was that there is an analogy between the way in which an action fits or fails to fit a value-judgement and the way in which a belief fits or fails to fit a fact. We may develop this analogy without adopting the theory of practical reasoning that has just been rejected. This will be a resumption of the main topic of this paper. It was remarked earlier that, when an action

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fails to fit the agent's final value-judgement, that is a case of heterogeneous misfit, which is sometimes, but not always, explained by subjective latitude, because he is uncertain whether the specification in his value-judgement would, or would not fit the action. Suppose that he thinks that it would fit it when in fact it would not do so. That would be another kind of heterogeneous misfit and we have to compare the two kinds with one another. One difference between them is immediately obvious. An observer cannot consciously form a belief that does not fit a perceived fact in a case without any subjective latitude. For in such a case he would know which proposition fitted the fact and he would have to believe the contradictory proposition and no sane person can believe this conjunction. The case of action and value-judgement is quite different. Here the direction of fit is reversed and the criterion of fitting is not representing truly but satisfying the specification in the value-judgement. Now the requirement, that there must be no subjective latitude, means that the agent must remember his value judgement, be aware of the demand that it makes on his action and have no doubt about the action that would meet this demand. But that does not make the misfit one that no sane person can achieve. The consciousness required by the absence of latitude is expressed in a proposition and we have seen that a combination of proposition and action neither purports, but fails to represent a possibility, nor does anything sufficiently like this to make it an impossible achievement for sane people. There is, therefore, a fundamental difference between the two cases of heterogeneous misfit. One is impossible without subjective latitude, but there is no need for any subjective latitude when the other occurs. Although this point is obvious, it is crucial and it is worth connecting it with the remarks about subjective latitude in Section 3 in spite of the risk of repetitiveness. In the type of akrasia described by Davidson the agent exploits objective latitude by making a final value-judgement which is irrational in relation to the reasoning that precedes it, but does not contradict anything in it. That is a case of homogeneous misfit. In some cases of last-ditch akrasia the agent exploits subjective latitude when he is inclined to think, but is not quite sure that his action fails to fit the specification in his valuejudgement. In such

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a case there are two kinds of heterogeneous misfit, each with its own direction and criterion of'fit.The specification fails to fit the action and so the action fails to fit the value-judgement. If lastditch akrasia is possible without any subjective latitude, the second of those two kinds of misfit can occur without the first. But is this really a possibility?In order to answer this question, we need to consider the two kinds of misfit separately rather where they occur together and than in a case of last-ditch akrasia we have to compare them with one another. The result of this comparison is that it is not possible for a sane person consciously to form a belief that does not fit a perceived fact, but that it is possible for him consciously to perform an action that does not fit his own value-judgement. The first of these two kinds of heterogeneous misfit requiressubjective latitude, but the second does not require it and the reason for this difference is that the stipulation, that the misfit must be conscious, produces a contradiction in the first case, whereas in the second case it neither produces a contradiction nor anything sufficiently like a contradiction to make it impossible for a sane agent. This simple point is enough to establish that avoidable, lastditch akrasia without latitude is not made impossible by its internal irrationality. It might be assumed that it is also enough to show that it is a real possibility. But it is not enough to show that. Excessive preoccupation with the paradox of irrationality has led to neglect of the other aspects of the contrast between irrational action and irrational belief-formation. In fact, there is another question to be asked at this point: "Why does the will ever take advantage of the possibility of this ultimate type of
akrasia?"

Here too, at the risk of repetitiveness, it is worth picking up some points made in Section 4. If we were so constituted that our desires had access to intentional action only through our reasoned value-judgements, last-ditch akrasia without any subjective latitude would remain an unrealized possibility. For if that were our constitution, intentional action would always home onto apparent value and misfits would always be attributable to subjective latitude, because we could never exploit intentionally the possibility of producing them. There would then be a really striking parallelism between irrational action and cold irrational belief-formation. In each case we

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would be driven by a single desire, the desire to performa valued action in one case and the desire to attain a true belief in the other, and so the disanalogy noted in the discussionof the quasipropositional theory would not spoil the exact parallelism of our behaviour in the two cases. As soon as we became aware of a misfit in belief-formation or in action, we would avoid it or correct it. However, if the suggestionmade in Section 4 is correct, we are not constituted in that way and, given our evolution, it is hard to see how such a constitution could have been anything but a myth. Perhaps it is our tendency to rationalize our actions after performing them that has made the myth seem to be reality. Anyway, our real situation is more dangerous. Stacked up behind the will there are conflicting forces which remain potentially explosive in spite of their smooth resolution in our reasoned value-judgements and they can break out in intentional action without the endorsement of a revised valuation. In the other case, belief and fact, the situation is quite different. There the thing that sets the standard of fit is not in the mind but in the world and it does not even make sense to project any conflict into it. Of course, the available evidence about it may be conflicting and even baffling, but that only shows that there is sometimes difficulty in achieving fit because the shape of the thing that sets the standard of fit does not come through clearly in all cases. It does not mean that there is conflict within the thing that sets the standard of fit. It is only in the case of the will that there is conflict behind the throne. This may seem to be a quaint way of describing the second difference between the two cases. However, it does have the merit of presenting both differences in a single picture. The first difference is that irrationality without any latitude is a less formidable obstacle to action than it is to belief-formation. The discussion of this difference established that last-ditch akrasia without any latitude is a possibility at least on the scale of irrationality. The possibility is then realized only because there is within the thing that sets the standard of fit the kind of conflict that can lead to an unforced takeover of the will, or, to put the point more explicitly, an unforced change in the immediate cause of intentional action. Some confirmation of this account can be extracted from the

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with cold cases of irrational comparisonof last-ditchakrasia In cold cases, it will be remembered,the belief-formation. conflictis not causedby a desire.If the precedingargumentis correct,it is not the kindof conflictthat is intrinsicto the thing of fit but occursonly becausethe shapeof that setsthe standard that thing does not come throughclearly.Now this subjective for the wrongbeliefto be formed,but latitudemakesit possible why is it actually formed?In the more interestingcases it is formednotjust becauseof badluck,but becauseofan irrelevant factor,like the salienceof a perceptualcue which ought not to have carriedso much weight. There is in such cases a sharp contrast,pointedout earlier,between the tendencyto form a perceptualbelief againstthe weightof availablecues and lastwill correcthis mistakethe moment The observer ditch akrasia. that he realisesthat it is caused by an evidentiallyirrelevant is more stubborn propertylike salience, but last-ditchakrasia and it is certainlynot automaticallyinhibited by the agent's that it is only the last-minuteintensityof the desire realization that is pushinghim towardsan action that is not supportedby the legitimateforceconcededto it in his reasonedvaluation. None of these argumentsprove the possibilityof avoidable withoutany subjective latitude.The aimof this akrasia last-ditch been to the make intuition, that it is possible, paper has only in it morepersuasive by presenting the contextof a comparison it more which gives pointsof contact with the phenomena.
NOTES 'This is a common mistake in accounts of Aristotle's views given by English-speaking philosophers. 'Aristotle: Nichomachean Ethics, Bk. VII, ch. 7. 3Ibid. Bk. VII, ch. 10. ed. J. 4See D. Davidson: "How is Weakness of the Will possible?" in Moral Concepts, andEvents,Oxford 1980, ch. 2. Feinberg, Oxford 1967; reprinted in D. Davidson Actions 5Aristotle seems to have taken a different view. He treats the action as the conclusion of the agent's reasoning. See Nichomachean Ethics,Bk. VI, ch. 2, and Bk. VII, ch. 3, and De Motu Animalium, 701A. 6It is adopted and developed by B. O'Shaugnessy in The Will, Cambridge, 1980. 7These arguments have been used by R. M. Hare. See TheLanguage ofMorals,Oxford, 1952, chs. 7 & 8, pp. 13-20 and pp. 168-70, and Freedom andReason, Oxford, 1963, ch. 5. "This thesis is defended by Davidson, loc. cit. cf. W. Wollaston, TheReligionofNature in L. A. Selby-Bigge: BritishMoralistsVol. II, p. 364. Delineated, 9See E. Anscombe "Thought and Action in Aristotle", in New Essays in Plato and Aristotle,ed. Bambrough, London 1967 pp. 156-8.

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'0See p. 163, footnote 4. "'The possibility that they may be the same event is discussed by Davidson in Action and Events, ch. 5. He is inclined to accept the identity on grounds of ontological parsimony. This issue does not affect the argument of this paper. ' Loc. cit. 14 E. Anscombe: Intention, Oxfobrd1957, passim.

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MOTIVATED IRRATIONALITY D. F. Pears and David Pugmire


II-David Pugmire
1. There are a number of ways a person can do what from his own vantagepoint is worse and thereby seem to act irrationally. But when someone goes so far as to choose for the worse in the knowledge that he is doing so, his consternation and others' contempt or pity are liable to be upstaged by bemusement: concern that he should act in this way becomes wonder at how it is managed-or even whether this could be the right description of what he has done. For we take him to have been aware of reasons against doing something which appealed to him and which he would do, other things being equal; but we take him also to have accepted that these reasons outweighed the reasons he could find for doing what appealed, so that the latter was seen as the worse choice. What basis does this leave him for having made that choice nonetheless and for having chosen as freely here as we would say he had chosen if he had been 'strong of will' and desisted? Mr. Pears and Professor Davidson agree that a person may in fact sometimes freely reject what he believes to be the better course of action, but the difference in their respective accounts of how this is possible rests partly on different versions of what actually happens under the agreed general rubric. They discuss slightly different sorts of case. Davidson envisages a failure in practical reasoning: the akratic agent weighs up the reasons available to him and appreciates which value-judgment they point to but proceeds to endorse and act on a contrary valuejudgment. The valuation and the choice of action are logically indivisible, and the key to understanding the akratic manoeuvre lies in showing how the deliberative premises do not actually entail their correct valuational-cum-practical conclusion.' This is one way of underwriting the common reproach, "You/I knew better than to do that". However, there is an intuitive idea of weak-willed action which requires us to take fairly literally the further and equally commonplace suggestion that the agent acted against his better

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judgment. He didn't just know enough to conclude that he shouldn't do X, he knew he shouldn't do X. That is, what his action contravenes is precisely the judgment he settled on. He acts contrary not just to what the evidence indicates to him it is best to do but even contrary to what he thinks it best to do. (This flaw is a close relative to the flaw of not sticking to one's decision.) Or at any rate, there is often much in an agent's own attitude to what he is doing to suggest this twist of interpretation. I am thinking of an attitude of detestation of the choice made and of explicit self-reproach that can actually accompany both the choice and the action ("Here I go again"). Resolutionbreaking, for instance, can, as such, be a humiliating experience. To be sure, as the precariously reformed alcoholic gives in and raises the fateful glass (accepting that with him it's never 'just one'), he may have veered entirely away from the sound apprehensions that made him hesitate to the last as if he had forgotten them and may have acted in the moment with an eye for nothing but the immediate relief of this drink. Again, someone might impulsively repeat a piece of injurious gossip which he had resolved to keep to himself, perhaps immediately to regret it. There may be several close variants of these cases, but one which does not seem to be merely impetuous and momentarily heedless is that in which the lapsing alcoholic actually retains his grasp of the enormity of what he is doing right through the doing of it: he can despair at himself for procuring this relief as he procures it. His pre-libationary conviction that he must abstain survives in a feeling of selfbetrayal as he takes the drink (or at least in chagrin at letting himself run this kind of risk for this kind of reason). Similarly, the gossip may be shocked at what he is doing, shudder at the unworthiness of it and of his reasons for it. People do appear able to act knowing that they are letting themselves down, that the world is not well lost for this ("I regret this already"). 2. A merit of Mr. Pears' treatment of what he calls 'motivated irrationality' is that it allows for this phenomenon. Pears argues that the passage from valuation to action is not logically closed and that the action can flout the agent's final value-judgment. Certainly this is the hardest sort of case to understand. It is also the one that answers most closely to the intuitive idea

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For what it is worth,Pears'attemptto of being"weak-willed". distinguishhis topic from that of 'weaknessof will' seems to unnecessary (see p. 158). Aristotledid use the termakrasia to acton one'sbest coverfailure judgment through impetuousness, and this sortof fumblingis not the sameas weakness. However, it is not impetuousakrasiathat Pears settles on to discuss. Secondly,in doing what he wants,a personmay not be doing what he wants himselfto do. To call this 'weak' is to offera of what he hasdoneratherthan an explanationof classification who is notjust impetuousdoesn't it, as Pearsclaims.The akratic act as he doesbecausehe is weak,he is weakbecausehe actsthis is not part of a theoryhere but partof what the way:weakness of weakness theoryis about,and whatattribution explainsis the of certain moral attitudes to theakrasia at hand. appropriateness Weak is what people feel themselves(and are felt) to be then. of someonefortifiedby soundjudgmentis better The weakness seen as the puzzle than as an attemptedsolutionto the puzzle. forsomething thatseems somewhat Davidson's theoryaccounts distinct from what intriguesus as irrationalor weak. I will just whatis at stakein expandthisclaimin orderto makeclearer seesthe relation of the agent'sreasons Pears'theory.Davidson to as to the the singularvalue-judgment they support analogous about the probability relationbetweena universal proposition about the of eventsof a certaintype and a singularproposition event of that of a The typeactuallyoccurring. probability given is not even the available entailed, though singularjudgment in reasonsfavourit, so that there is no outrightinconsistency with a the universal conclusion judgment combining singular contraryto the one it favours. Wherethispointcan be made,however,it veryoftenneedsto be takena step furtherthan Davidsontakes it. For, except in certain cases to which I shall return, there is more than an analogy between the merely presumptiveground that the of probability statement universal givesfor beliefin thesingular statementof probabilityand the prima that facie preferability best reasons on the incontinent available confer agent's singular that he failsto make(andhenceto act on). This value-judgment themselves tendactually is becausein the lattercase the reasons of a cigarette considerations. to involveprobabilistic Acceptance smokerwho fearsrevival of the habit above all by a reformed

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else is not the same as regaining the habit, nor is regaining the habit the developing of a heart condition, nor are these things related by entailment: this cigarette merely creates or increases the likelihood of these outcomes (to a decreasing degree as the prognosis advances from a revival of the habit to the ensuing health collapse). Often the reasoning is inductive: the way these things have happened always or mostly. Now, it seems too simple to view a choice against the action that probably has the best outcome as irrational. Where the concern is with outcome, there is logical room (usually hard to quantify) for doubt about the move from available reasons to the judgment they support-will it really happen this time? Will it really be that bad/good?2 And there is no reason in turn why such marginal uncertainties should not play a qualifying role in the deliberation, as it seems to me that they characteristically do. After all, in the smoking example the best outcome would be the enjoyment of this cigarette without the revival of the habit, and nothing the agent knows definitely precludes this. Banking on outcomes implies risk, and high stakes justify high risks, or at least permit them. If the possible benefit is much desired, neither irrational nor weak. These risk--hope-against-hope-is in be order would only if the benefit was slight whilst the charges alternative was as good as certain and its entailed sacrifice more than slight. But I submit that examples of this simply do not occur or are criterial of insanity. Thus, if smoking this cigarette stood to having a heart attack as sticking my hand in this coal fire to warm it stands to my getting agonisingly burnt, no one in his right mind would do it. The sort of case in which the available reasons do not actually entail the practical conclusion are cases in which the decisive badness or goodness lies in a projected outcome and hence at least some distance in the future. Although actions of this sort are commonly cited as examples of akrasia, they leave room for risk and hope and so fail as straightforward examples of action against best judgment. They contrast with examples devoid of such complications, in which the reason-giving goodness or badness do not lie at any logical remove from the action itself but lie in it, in the kind of action it is (e.g. honest, disloyal, forgiving as opposed to conducive to happiness in virtue of, perhaps, these qualities). Only in this second type of case (assuming the absence

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of subjective latitude and self-deception about the nature of the action done) does the agent who resists his available reasons stray beyond a rubric such as "I suppose what I am doing looks reckless and inadvisable" and into the adjoining region marked by a self-despairing "I regret this already", the inner frontage of actions that merit classification as weak-willed if anything does. There is, however, one way in which a person might seem knowingly to act against his better judgment that is intermediate between the ways envisaged, respectively, by Davidson and Pears. An action might be simultaneously in keeping with a settled valuation and in violation of a settled valuation. This would happen if a person could accept both that his reasons, when weighed up, were sufficient to rule out a given choice and that they were sufficient to justify it. Such a possibility depends on a heterogeneity and incommensurability of the values that inform the choice. This model would be based precisely on the failure of Davidson's definition: an action, x, [is] incontinent provided simply that the agent has a better reason for doing something else: he does x for a reason r, but he has a reason r' that includes r and more, on the basis of which he judges some alternativey to be better than x.' Perhaps one thing the 'incontinent' agent precisely lacks is a reason, r', that he can find either to include r, on which he acts, or to include more, even though he has sufficient reason not to act on r. Reason r has a uniqueness to him; nothing else could quite make up for (nor hence supersede) the peculiar sacrifice entailed by overriding ?r.Something like this possibility is identified by Wiggins in a De Anima passage which, according to him, claims that there will always be a greater good. It does not imply that there will be no grounds for regret about that which is deemed to be the lesser good. And it does not itself imply that everything that matters about an alternative necessarily registers in the measurement of it in respect of eudaimonia. Nor does it imply that if course x is better in respect of eudaimonia than course y, then there is no desirable feature that)y offers, that x does not offer too, by way of an equal or greater degree of that very feature. One

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think we shall see room for the akrates to choose the smaller good when he could have the larger, and choose it for a reason that is a realreason, for all that it is a badreason. This can happen wherever there is no prospect of compensation in kind, and y has some peculiar or distinctive charm that the incontinent man is susceptible to.3 This agent, unlike Pears' agent, does act on a value-judgment; and the desire that prompts him can still be regarded as tantamount to a value-judgment. It is not my purpose to discuss this approach at length but only to try to locate it relative to the one we are mainly considering and to suggest that even if it does isolate a genuine possibility, it does not, once again, cover the most intractable
cases of akrasia.

in kind . . I might call this last theprinciple of compensation

There seem two main reasons for this. In the first place, the predicament created by a conflict involving values that really are incommensurable would seem to be precisely that no one judgment as to what is bestcan be settled on: where the choice is between values that are not reducible to one another and that are not, in their difference, clearly rateable against one another, the agent is simply in a dilemma: hisjudgment about his options must remain congenitally irresolvable-for the values to be in conflict is for there to be no position from which the conflict can be settled, at least by valuation. That being the case, then on the one hand, though the agent makes a value-judgment and acts against it and thereby acts in accord with a value-judgment that fails to present the choice as the best choice, thus giving the appearance of akrasia, the judgment favouring the rejected choice cannot really have presented it as unreservedly the best choice either, as a hard case of akrasiawould require. What, then, can be the basis of choice where neither option definitely counts as the best? Evidently it cannot be the valuejudgment that best accords with the choice actually made (countervailing values are acknowledged without being deemed inferior). Either the choice is simply without a basis, random and unmotivated or it must be understood primarily in terms of desire, either as the result of a tug of desires or of a conflict

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between a desire and the value-judgment favouring the rejected option. The point is that the victorious predilection is a matter of desire as distinct from valuation (even if the desire is itselfa value or specifies a value). And this is the very ground cleared by Pears. I said there were two problems about dealing with akrasiain terms of the disunity of value. The second is independent of the first. It is that some cases ofakrasiaseem clearly not to involve an impasse between different kinds of value. They comprise a conflict and puzzling choice within, so to speak, the same domain of value. A person may refuse or postpone dental treatment to avoid the pain of treatment (or the alarming surgical intrusion into the sanctum of his oral cavity) knowing all along that thisjust makes the inevitable treatment, not to say the toothache, yet more radical. The fear behind not keeping the dental appointment and the fear behind keeping it are both the fear of pain (or for bodily integrity). And as the sufferermay concede, defensively and with consternation, postponement at stake are homogeneous, and, really doesn't add up. The values as he turns his back on it, the suffereris in no doubt where they point. 3. I have been presenting reasons why an account of akrasiain terms of an agent's deviation from the choice dictated by his values and hence as a rebellion against the result of his practical reasoning rather than an error within it, is the most promising sort of account. It allows for irrational action of the most extreme kind: the kind which would resist correction by insight into the folly of the action and confound the maxim, 'The truth shall make you free'. It is important to know whether human foibles really extend to this. Mr. Pears is right to push the enquiry in the direction of these extreme and hard cases. On the other hand, Pears wishes also to defend the intuition that the recognised irrationality of an action is a lesser obstacle to going ahead with it than the recognised irrationality of a belief is to forming or holding it. If vindicated, this would presumablybe a warning against using the notion of irrationality of belief to explain the possibility of motivated action. His first argument in support of the intuition is that desire is an appropriate kind of reason for doing something but not for

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formingor holdinga belief.So believingjust as one wants is a moreradicalerrorthanactingjust as one wantsand indeedcan for what it is. The claim is perfectly hardlysurviverecognition correct,but the argumentseemsquestionable. Merelywishing somethingto be true is not on its own an obstacle to sanely sane beliefonly when thereis believingit. Mere wish precludes also evidenceand it is stackedagainstthe belief.But this is not fromaction.A desireto do something isan appropriate different kind of reasonfor doing it only if one doesn't know it to be with otherand greaterreasons incompatible againstdoing it. A desirethat is seenasnotworthfollowing underthecircumstances seemsas poor a reasonfor acting as a desireforwhat evidence refutes is for believing. Knowing whether a desire is worth actionfits actingon dependson knowingwhetherthe proposed in the value-judgment. the action-description To be uncertain latitude'.So Pears'argument about this is to enjoy'subjective worksfor casesinvolvingsubjectivelatitudeonly, not for those the last-ditchcases. underdiscussion, In otherwords,the very generalaptnessof desireas a reason for acting but not for believingdoes not securethe difference Pears wants between the barrierto desire-goadedirrational irrational actionunderthefullconditions beliefanddesire-goaded the in of kind akrasia under consideration. The differobtaining ence is at least sufficientlysmall to leave the action case as puzzlingas it seemedto startwith. If the difficultyin an action case not involvingsubjectivelatitude is comparableto that of wishful irrational believingand if,as Pearsconcedes,wheresuch beliefoccursit is obsessional (p. 162),then perhapsthe parallel action cases would be as good as compulsive,if indeed they occur at all. This is a suggestive result.The argument just mentionedrests on a view thatPearsproceeds to defendexplicitlyand at length in his criticisms of the 'propositional' and 'quasi-propositional' theoriesof action. This is that in irrationalbelief the misfit is between things alike in kind, beliefs, which involve asserted and this misfitcannotsurvivediscovery, propositions assuming that consciousand fully sane belief in what is incoherentis whereasan action, as somethingperformed rather impossible; than believed,does not clash with a belief (such as the action in a value-judgment) as one beliefwithanother,and description

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hence a clash between belief and action is not precluded merely by being clearly recognised. Between unlikes there is greater logical leeway for conflict. Against this I will urge that where an action is sufficiently different in kind from a judgment not to have propositional relations with the agent's judgments, it fails as a case of akrasia because it cannot safely be regarded as voluntary. Akrasiain one of its forms, could not, then, consist in actions of that sort. Reasons for dissatisfaction with Pears' rejection of this kind of scepticism (pp. 167-169) will emerge in due course. For someone to act in a way which violates and is known to violate his settled and unequivocal view of what is called for, he must not only fail to do what he regards as better but also do something he regards as worse. If in his deliberations he did not raise and reject the idea of what he ended by doing, his action would just represent a fresh option and, implicitly at least, a reevaluation of priorities and hence would not be necessarily akraticat all (even if it duly proved to have been a mistake and the re-evaluation ill-considered). Neither way does it fit Pears' theory. What, then, about an act that was rejected in deliberation? Was it performed out of desire but without reason? There are two possibilities. (1), The agent can give a reason for following his rebellious desire. Could he not then have acted on this reason?If he could it is hard to attribute the action merely to his having the desire and hard not to see the reason as a valuation (e.g. of that sort of desire). But unless this valuation is deemed to the erstwhile 'final' valuation (which would have superseded preclude akrasia),it just confronts that previous valuation as one judgment against another. And since he knows of the lack of fit between his action and the 'final' valuation, and knows his reason for acting as he did, he is in the position of knowingly affirming two conflicting value-judgments (or perhaps of not really having made up his mind about the values before hastening into action). In this way the case could collapse into the arms of a propositional theory. Alternatively, (2), the agent might not proffer a reason beyond the fact that he desired to do what he did. His explanation stops at "I guess Ijust wanted to-that's what I felt like doing. I needed that". There may well be cases of which

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there is no more to be said by the agent (and which involve nontrivial actions opposed by weighty reasons). At least under normal circumstances. But the circumstances here are special. What the agent did just because he wanted to ('for no good reason') is also something he then deemed worse and not to be done. This, however, is uncomfortably close to what specifies compulsive actions, which are unfree. Thus, he doesn't know why he gave in to the wish; for no reason that he can give, he acts contrary to the reasons he can give and to the conclusion he has drawn from them. It might be objected that this is only a necessary condition of compulsive action, that to have acted compulsively, the agent must have also been unable to help actions don't seem like this. The point I himself, and that akratic want to make here is negative: it is not clear that actions of the sort Pears has in mind do not meet the full conditions of being compulsive. 'Compulsive' actions are those a person cannot refrainfrom, motivated by desires he cannot resist:but it is hard to see what could be meant by claiming that the agent could have helped himself in cases of extreme last-ditch akrasia.For what is missing is preciselywhat would show that the person was (or could have been) in control of himself when he acted, namely that he acted on his own best judgment despite all temptation. The voluntariness of such actions can be questioned without exaggerating the sense in which the desire in extreme, last-ditch akrasianeeds to be seen as irresistible or as good as irresistible. Certainly, the desire need not be viewed as irresistiblein itselfor necessarily, i.e. for anyone and under any circumstances. There are heroisms which warn us against assuming that desire is ever of this order (the Sirens notwithstanding). Nor need the desire that beats the akraticagent be irresistibleto that same person in all circumstances (some of which might involve his having additional reasons to those that are defeated, including having once been driven by that desire into akrasia).Maybe it wasn't even irresistible by him on the occasion in question, in that had he possessed and acknowledged other reasons than those he in fact possessed and acknowledged, he wouldn't have given in as he did- resistibility is obviously a relative rather than an intrinsic property of a desire. However, as everything stood the desire does seem to have been as good as irresistibleby him then. For, to revert to the point above, it did defeat his best efforts:he

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put himself through a deliberation that opened him, as much as anything in his power could, to what he was doing, and he reached a dissuasive all-things-considered value-judgment, resolved and set himself against what he then did anyway. If we decline to take literally the energy metaphors of willpower, exertion, resistance, etc., how else overcoming of will, struggle, strength than in the aforementioned way could he have tried to resist? What more could he have done?4 However if the available resourcesfor resistancefailed, it would be arbitrary to insist that the desire was resistible on the occasion and his action clearly voluntary. It may also help to notice that the examples which strike us, and are often discussed, as 'incontinent' are more readily classifiable as compulsive than they might seem to be. Many of them happen to constitute behaviour, of a blatantly addictive nature: smoking, drinking, food cravings (perhaps gambling could be squeezed in here) and are not, incidentally, only of the elemental instinctual kind-fear, anger, sex-cited by Aristotle and Pears. What of other milder examples? Lounging in bed instead of getting up and cracking as one knows full well one should, is a far cry from kleptomania and all that. Doubtless, usually; but is it then? Such indulgence is frequently accompanied, clearly akratic even explicitly, by such thoughts as "Oh, what the hell-halfan hour won't make that much difference". On the other hand, the person who says he "supposes he should" or even that he "really must" is often expressingjust the fear lest he reallyshould. The value-judgmenthere is half-hearted:tentative when not, indeed, reversed.Alternatively, there may be a conflict of values, e.g. of moral with hedonistic well-being (where "I know I ought" doesn't represent a Davidsonian unconditional judgment). Then the lounging is backed by value-judgment and the valuejudgment it flouts has not been given definite precedence over it. Where such reinterpretations can be ruled out and lounging definitely was not seen by the agent at the time as the best or as good as makes no odds (since, for instance, it would lose him his job or the bed was on fire), then persistence would suggest the compulsive. It should not be thought, either, that whereas the desires that tempt the akratic needn't be extraordinarily intense (if they

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needn't be), those that grip the compulsive must be. Plenty of behavioural mannerisms, for instance, are well-nigh unconquerable without being especially desperate. Again, however, the claim here is really negative: I am not saying that these actions done sheerly out of desire against the combined weight of available reasons and unequivocal value-judgment and with no countervailing reason claimed, are necessarily compulsive. I claim only that they look too hard to distinguish from the compulsive to afford a distinct basis for a theory of how akrasia is possible. At best, they are borderline cases ofakrasia. In his paper, Pears denies that the action is 'forced', that the renegade desire is irresistible or that it necessarily prevails when it does prevail, on the ground that when a desire that has been defeated in deliberation takes over control of intentional action, it does not put external pressure on the will. Rather, it constitutes the will in spite of the fact that it does not conform to the agent's better judgment and does not even pretend to do so (p. 168). Presumably, to say that the rebellious desire 'constitutes the will' means that in acting on the desire, the agent does what he intends. Where this is clearly true is in the post-take-over stage; that is, the will is not subject to 'external pressure' by the desire when the action is performed. At that stage, ineffective rearguard nagging from the direction of the flouted value-judgment would form the only pressure 'external to the will'. However, to conclude that the action is unforced is to overlook the take-over, the rebellious desire's rebellion. The agent has not intended to act on this desire (the desire has not 'constituted his will') ever since he has had it, covering the span of deliberation and of the desire's ominous overlap with the final valuation. He did not intend to act on the desire, even though he had it, until its lastminute intensification. Before intensification he may have intended to follow the value-judgment (at that stage he will characteristically express himself as resolved on this). Pears may be right that a singular, all-told final valuation (even complete with an imperative issued to oneself) is not, and does not entail, the intention to act in the way it indicates, but neither is it an object of detached contemplation which the desire simply bypasses from the start. Lack of integration on this scale may

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exist, but it is neither the paradigm nor the limiting case of the extreme last-ditch akrasia that interests us here. In this akrasia, it is not a matter of the desire fixing (or being) the intention from the start, directly and in serene independence of the agent's arrival at a contrary value-judgment (for one thing, this would make the phenomenological fact of conflict hard to understand). The desire comes to 'constitute the will' and does so not through bypassing it but through overriding, usurping, prevailing; and what it overrides, usurps, prevails over, is just 'the will' as it stands prior to last-minute intensification. That is, the desire manages to alter the intention which the agent has or would otherwise act on in keeping with his valuation. To understand quite how the desire changes the best laid intention, we will have eventually to get behind the political and energy metaphors of overriding, defeating, etc., and on the side of 'will', of resistingas Pears says, 'The point most difficult to establish in all this is the nature of the take-over.' 4. It is possible that the difficulties with Mr. Pears' way of accounting for action against one's better judgment depend not on any faults of analysis but on the initial specification of what has to be accounted for. Mr. Pears seems to hold that people can freely and knowingly choose to act against their sole and unqualified assessment of what is to be done. I have tried to cast doubt on the idea that this could be both free and knowing. How certain is it that such hard, last-ditch cases in fact occur? If they cannot occur, then they do not. Of course even if they do not occur perhaps it is theoretically possible that they might. But there is the danger here that an account of an unrealised possibility will have little more than a curiosity value, and there is the further danger that some greater value than this might be given to it. Anyhow, it would be remarkable if we didn't do something of which we were perfectly capable, especially where the kind of motives at work are so strikingly prone to dislocate the straightforward patterns of rational thought and action. What actually happens, then, is of some interest. Earlier I was at pains to show how Mr. Pears' paper is distinctive in addressing action against one's best judgment in its most challenging guise. Now I want to suggest that, appearances notwithstanding, there may be no such phenomenon. My claim

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is thatthesortofcasethatinvitescategorisation asa hardformof is equallyamenable to descriptions thatarelessproblemakrasia Thesedescriptions atic even thoughmorecomplicated. explain the agent'simpression that he is indeed floutinghis own final at the behestof desire,but theydo notconfirm it. value-judgment Considerthe followingpictureof how thoughtcould lead to A person actionof the kindliableto be viewedas 'incontinent'. has weighed his reasonsand has reached an unconditional that is in keepingwith theirconjointforce.He value-judgment intendsto do x, whichthejudgmentfavours. He hasa desirefor y, but althoughthisdesire(ory as desired)was givenweightas a reasonin his deliberation, adversereasonswere deemedmore important.However,at the thresholdof action, when it comes to realising his good intention, he falters and finds himself intention.It is puzzling choosingyafterall, actingon a different how a desirethat standsrejectedcould yet prevailonly if one takestoo statica view of desire. Let us consider last-minuteintensification.It is true but and misleadingto regardthe desirethat figuredin deliberation the ultimatechoiceassimplythe same:it the desirethatprompts is a desireforthe sameobject,but desireis subjectto changesin degreeand potency.The move fromthe thoughtof the desired object (which is enough to evoke the desire) to the actual presenceof that object can produce a change in the desire to revolutionize intention.The thoughtof the Sirens' sufficient is one the sound of the Sirens'singingis another.As song thing, matters were consideredinitially, the charms of the desired objectwere, of course,heeded,but theywereunavailablein all their poignancy;they were presentmoreas intimations.Until the desire was fully awakened,the charmsof the object-its beguilingaspect-remained relativelyspeakingdim. This full with the object. But the awakeningmay await confrontation to the desired in the initialdeliberation can weightgiven object a function of the be charms as then felt or only object's in These in a desire's changes anticipated imagination. intensity and vivacity are more than just changes of force. This is the point at which we can extricateourselvesfroma mechanical model and from metaphorsof energy interplayor politics.A plausiblealternativeto a literal tug-of-warbetween forces is simplyto allow that for an agent'sdesireto awakenfully is for

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him to awaken to a new, albeit misguided, perspective on the values at stake. The desire was allowed to constitute or to reveal in the object a (less than adequate) reason for acting; but when the moment of choice comes, the value attaching to satisfying the desire (the value of its object) appears to have changed. It follows that there is a change in the reasons available to the agent. This is to say that in last-minute intensification a desire becomes effective by presenting new material for judgment; its changes work through valuation rather than independently of valuation. This is not to deny that desires can 'operate' independently of value-judgments, either without them or against them. I can regard something I just do desire (and choose) as unworthy. But appearing to do this can be hard to distinguish from regarding it as unworthy to place value in certain things. What this could amount to, especially where the values in question are commensurable, will be considered in a moment. First it should be stressed that the claim that a newly intensified desire can operate through judgment rather than independently of it is obviously not the a prioriclaim that it must operate through judgment, which Pears rightly rejects. The claim is, however, that only in this way can akrasia be'unforced' or free. In other words actions that seem clearly known at the time not to fit the standing value-judgment but to be freely chosen are either unfree or non-existent (probably because impossible). The former claim was defended in the preceding section, the latter will now be explored. Either of two views of the agent's post-intensification choice seems possible. The first is that he has changed his mind: in light of altered reasons he has, in effect, deliberated anew and revised his conclusion. Or hejust acts without weighing-up again. In the first case he acts in accordance with what is really his final valuejudgment, which is virtually coeval with his action. In the second he does not act against a judgment that has taken into account all the reasons he now has (nor is he, therefore, knowingly flouting such a judgment). This is the divergence from Pears' model. And in neither case is he knowingly judging against what he knows to be the weight of his available reasons. This is the divergence from Davidson. Either way, however, he can still be under the impression that

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what he is doing is the 'wrong' thing. This might sound surprisingespecially in the first case, in which his action is rationalby his then prevailingstandards. However,it may be that he does not thinkof himselfas havingredeliberated on the spot (in the way thatone can hold beliefsand reachconclusions implicitly).He may, therefore,continue to think of his initial conclusionas the one all the reasonssupportand of himselfas propelledby desire into floutingthis betterjudgment, and he may just be wrongabout this. If this lookscontrived(and I think it is lesscontrivedthan it looks), there is an independent way of accounting for the thatone is actingagainstone'sbetterjudgment when impression one is not. Even if one does not retain the actual judgment againstone'seventualchoice,one may still retainan awareness of what the reasonsare for that judgment and adverseto the finalchoice.They areacceptedand theyspecifysacrifices which The pointaboutthisis that in real one'sactionhasnowensured. cases no very sharp distinctioncan be relied on between the thoughtmerelyof all the badnessentailedby one'schoice and the thoughtthat thismustbe the worstchoice;the line between 'Thisisjust terrible' and'Thisistoo terrible-not worthit' is too assertions of the latter to be distinguished for with any shifty confidencefromexpressions of the former. This grimawareness of costcan only be enhancedas the desireattainsitsaim and the beguilingaspectof the objectfades-its magicis fled-at which point the originaljudgment may reinstateitself and seem to have been hisjudgment(aswell as the rightone) all along;and this may in fact be false.Alternatively,the commitment,once sealed by action, may bring the same intensification of value with regardto the adversereasonsas it did for the favourable housedin the desire; reasons a newseriousness is discovered, too late, in the originaldissuasivereasons.One only knows quite how sharp the nettle is once one has graspedit. This new or will supportthe initial,floutedjudgment enhancedperspective with himself,"It'sjustas afresh,and the agentmay remonstrate I thought!Why didn't I stick to my guns?!"Only, notice, he didn't reallyknowall along,becauseit isn't just as he hadthought to start with, for the awesomenew perspective on the adverse have dawned reasons after and may only throughhis'renegade' choice.

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In this second version of the state of the 'akratic' agent's he hasnot actuallyrevised hisfirstdeliberated reasons, judgment in lightof his reassessment at the time of choice.He can thinkof himselfas actingagainstwhathe has recognised to be in hisbest interests becausehe has madea judgmentagainstwhat he now doesand becausehe is obliviousto the factthatif he reflected on his reasonsas they now present themselves(at the time of choice),he wouldreachanotherconclusion.(In the firstversion he is obliviousto actually having, in effect, revisedhis initial This impression, too, standsto be reinforced conclusion.) by the discoveryof the magnitudeof the incurredbadnessor by the to the originalvaluationin hiseventualmorning-after reversion blues. On eitherversion,the agent'srealfaultlies in understanding just what his reasonsare and quantifyingthem, as far as they
to some extent there is nothing he can do about allow-and this-rather than in wrongly matching conclusion to reasons or wrongly matching action to conclusion. A fault of ignorance, then, after all. My argument can now be stated briefly. Above are at least two interpretations of what may be happening when we are tempted to suspect last-ditch akrasia. They don't fit the formula, 'acting knowingly against one's best judgment' although they do show how that formula could wrongly seem to fit what happens, first to the agent himself and through him to philosophers. Despite their waywardness, these interpretations are as compatible with intuition, with one's sense of what seems to be happening, as the interpretation that takes the formula at face value and thereby engenders 'the problem' ofakrasia. So it is not really clear that there are cases which confirm to a straightforward reading of the formula. And the difficulties with Pears' carefully focused attempt to show that this formula might have instances discourages the belief that it does. I have also wanted to suggest that 'akrasia' should not be understood in terms of a single, once and for all exercise in practical reasoning on which one then puzzlingly reneges. It may rather be a matter of assessments that involve exploration and discovery with consequent oversights or readjustments in practical reasoning. It is unstable rather than surd.

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NOTES

'D. Davidson, 'How is weakness of Will Possible?', Essays on Actionsand Events, Oxford, 1980, p. 38ff. 2The other possible uncertainty is whether the action proposed is really quite the one forbidden or enjoined, as the case may be, by one's value-judgment, which Pears terms 'subjective latitude'. 3D. Wiggins, 'Weaknessof Will, Commensurability, and The Objects of Deliberation and Desire', (PAS LXXIX, 1978/9, 251-278). 'If being able to help himself involves something distinct from acting or failing to act in accordance with his settled view at the time of how best to act, then 'strength ofl'will' would not consist in doing what seems best simply on the ground that it seems best. And surely it does consist in this.

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