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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 45, 2020

Anna Hartford
Pages 15-33

Complex Akrasia and Blameworthiness

The idea that conscious control, or more specifically akratic wrongdoing, is a necessary condition for blameworthiness has durable appeal. This position has been explicitly championed by volitionist philosophers, and its tacit influence is broadly felt. Many responses have been offered to the akrasia requirement espoused by volitionists. These responses often take the form of counterexamples involving blameworthy ignorance: i.e., cases where an agent didn’t act akratically, but where they nevertheless seem blameworthy. These counterexamples have generally led to an impasse in the debate, with volitionists maintaining that the ignorant agents are blameless. In this paper, I explore a different sort of counterexample: I consider agents who have acted akratically, but whose very conscious awareness of their wrongdoing complicates their blameworthiness. I call these cases of “complex akrasia,” and I suggest that they are a familiar aspect of moral life. I interpret these cases as supporting non-volitionist accounts, and particularly Quality of Will accounts.

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