Philosophy Research Archives

Volume 12, 1986/1987

Bruce B. Settle
Pages 87-99

Psychological Incapacity and Moral Incontinence
How the Former Does Not Explain the Latter

Moral incontinence (that is, knowing what one ought to do but doing otherwise) has often been explained in terms of psychological incapacity/inability (that is, “ought but can’t”). However, Socrates and others have argued that, whenever it is physically possible to act, there can be no rupture between judgment and behavior and therefore there are no instances of “ought but can’t”. The analysis that follows will conclude either that Socrates was correct in holding that there are no ruptures between judgment and behavior or that, if there are such ruptures, then explanations in terms of psychological incapacity/inability are inappropriate.