in a perfect world of yancies: Let Us Eat One Last Cookie, and Then We Will Stop

05 April 2012

Let Us Eat One Last Cookie,
and Then We Will Stop

Do you know that frog & toad story about the cookies? Has this sort of thing happened to you?

I'm teaching a class this quarter on what's known as "weakness of will" or "akrasia" (from the Greek ἀκρασία), which means doing what you know you should not do.

Here's the description of the class:

Is it possible for a person to willingly do what she or he believes to be wrong? Plato’s Socrates famously holds that we always do what we think is best, and that “no one willingly makes a mistake or does anything wrong or bad” (Protagoras 345e). Nearly every major thinker in the Western tradition has struggled with this challenging idea. Some have defended Socrates, denying the possibility of what has come to be called both akrasia and weakness of will. Other thinkers have attempted to show how it might be possible for someone to act against his or her better judgment. This quarter, we will examine key ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary accounts of weakness of will and akrasia. Doing so will give us the opportunity to engage with a fascinating ongoing philosophical debate while also providing a way to examine important views on the nature of the human person.

I don't know about you, reader, but for me this problem, hard as it may be to explain, is all too real. And, by a really cool coincidence, it was also the subject of the session I chaired today at the Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association. The speaker, of course, defended Socrates' position. Pretty interesting, and convincing (at least on an intellectual level). I even persuaded a few of my students to come! Huzzah for doing the right thing willingly!

Okay, well, how about a video to wrap this up?


  1. This is great!!! Love, Mom X :) X

  2. Wow...they didn't have such exciting classes when I went to school. But then again I didn't go to a Catholic school.


  3. Maybe you just didn't take enough Philosophy classes? :)