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PHIL 201 (STOLZE). Notes on Richard Holton, Willing, Wanting, Waiting , chapters 4-6. Holton ’ s Purpose in Chapter Four. “ In the last chapter I was concerned with how we form our intentions. In this, and those that follow, I shall be concerned with how we implement them ” (p. 70).

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  1. PHIL 201 (STOLZE) Notes on Richard Holton, Willing, Wanting, Waiting, chapters 4-6

  2. Holton’s Purpose in Chapter Four “In the last chapter I was concerned with how we form our intentions. In this, and those that follow, I shall be concerned with how we implement them” (p. 70).

  3. Nietzsche on Revising Resolutions “To close your ears to even the best arguments once the decision has been made: sign of a strong character. Thus an occasional will to stupidity.” (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, section 107)

  4. Akrasia vs. Weakness of Will Akrasia is “action voluntarily undertaken against one’s best judgment” (p. 72). Holton argues that weakness of will is not akrasia but is “unreasonable revision of a contrary inclination defeating intention (a resolution) in response to the pressure of those very resolutions” (p. 78).

  5. Cases of Akrasia without Weakness of Willand Weakness of Will without Akrasia. • Ravi • Christabel • The Itchy-Fingered President

  6. Weakness of Will vs. Caprice “If someone over-readily revises a resolution, that is weakness of will; if they over-readily revise a simple intention, that is caprice” (p. 77). Example: The Vacillating Diner

  7. Six Advantages of Holton’s Account of Weakness of Will • It can accommodate weakness of will in cases of indifference or incommensurability. • It can explain the relation of weakness of will to strength of will. 3. It can account for cases of oscillating weakness of will. 4. It can allocate the stigma of weakness of will. 5. It can explain cases of weakness of will without inner conflict. 6. It can accommodate cases of both akrasia without weakness of will, and weakness of will without akrasia.

  8. Six Possible Objections 1. Why be so strict? • Can the account accommodate disagreement? • Does the account work for policy intentions and for procrastination? • Can the account accommodate actions performed without intentions? • Can the account distinguish weakness of will from compulsion? • Are we working with too simple an account of akrasia?

  9. Key Questions in Chapter Five • This chapter serves as a transition between Holton’s account of weakness of will (chapter 4) and his account of strength of will (chapter 6). • Holton distinguishes two kinds of “temptation” that can weaken one’s will: ordinary temptation and addictive temptation. • He concludes by comparing these forms of temptation.

  10. Ordinary Temptation Holton argues that ordinary temptation usually involves a kind of “judgment shift” that “causes the agent to re-evaluate: the value of what will be gained by holding out goes down, and so the relative value of what will be gained by succumbing goes up. By the time agents succumb their action will typically not be akratic, since their judgment about what is best to do will have followed their judgment of which outcome is most desirable….The most obvious explanation of what is going on comes from cognitive dissonance theory” (pp. 99-100).

  11. Addictive Temptation Holton argues that addictive temptation is not outside of a person’s intentional control and so is difficult but not impossible to overcome. Addiction involves the dissociation or decoupling of liking and wanting: “Standardly, once we like something, or once we believe that we will like it, we want it; and conversely, once we don’t like it, or believe that we will not, we do not want it. Addicts are different. They need not like the substances to which they are addicted: they need take no pleasure in getting them, nor in the prospect of getting them” (p. 104).

  12. Comparing Ordinary and Addictive Forms of Temptation • A standard philosophical view is that “ordinary temptation is potentially responsive to judgement, whereas addiction is not” (p. 109). • But Holton disagrees for two reasons: • In many standard cases of temptation there is a judgment shift. • Addicts may still be able to resist temptation. • Ex: Sartre on how to quit smoking!

  13. Key Issues in Chapter Six • Sartre on Gambling • Three philosophical accounts of strength of will: • Humean (beliefs and desires) • Augmented Humean (beliefs, desires, and intentions) • Willpower • Intentions and Willpower • Revision, Reconsideration, and Rehearsal • Evidence for Willpower • How Willpower Enables Us to Resist Temptation

  14. Sartre on Gambling “[Consider] the gambler who has any more and who when he approaches the gaming table, suddenly sees all his resolutions melt away. This phenomenon has often been described as if the sight of the gaming table reawakened in us a tendency which entered into conflict with our former resolution and ended by drawing us in spite of this….The earlier resolution of "not playing anymore" is always there, and in the majority of cases the gambler when in the presence of the gaming table, turns toward it as if to ask it for help; for he does not wish to play, or rather having taken his resolution the day before, he thinks of himself still as not wishing to play anymore; he believes in the effectiveness of this resolution. But what he apprehends then in anguish is precisely the total inefficacy of the past resolution. It is there doubtless but fixed, ineffectual, surpassed by the very fact that I am conscious of it. The resolution is still me to the extent that I realize constantly my identity with myself across the temporal flux, but it is no longer me—due to the fact that it has become an object for my consciousness. I am not subject to it, it fails in the mission which I have given it. The resolution is there still, I am it in the mode of not-being. What the gambler apprehends at this instant is again the permanent rupture in determinism; it is nothingness which separates him from himself; I should have liked so much not to gamble anymore; yesterday I even had a synthetic apprehension of the situation (threatening ruin, disappointment of my relatives) as forbidding me to play. It seemed to me that I had established a real barrier between gambling and myself, and now I suddenly perceive that my former understanding of the situation is no more than a memory of an idea, a memory of a feeling. In order for it to come to my aid once more, I must remake it ex nihilo and freely. The not-gambling is only one of my possibilities, as the fact of gambling is another of them, neither more nor less. I must rediscover the fear of financial ruin or of disappointing my family, etc., I must re-create it as experienced fear. It stands behind me like a boneless phantom. It depends on me alone to lend it flesh. I am alone and naked before temptation as I was the day before. After having patiently built up barriers and walls, after enclosing myself in the magic circle of a resolution, I perceive with anguish that nothing prevents me from gambling. The anguish is me since by the very fact of taking my position in existence as consciousness of being, I make myself not to be the past of good resolutions which I am.”(Being and Nothingness, translated by Hazel Barnes [New York: Washington Square Press (1992 [1956]), pp. 69-70.)

  15. The Willpower Account “If these [Humean] accounts were right, then sticking to a resolution would consist in the triumph of one desire over another. But that isn’t what it feels like. It typically feels as though there is a struggle. One maintains one’s resolution by dint of effort in the face of the contrary desire. Perhaps not every case of maintaining strength of will is like that (we shall mention some that are not). But, by and large, maintaining strength of will requires effort” (p. 118).

  16. Intentions and Willpower Holton argues that the willpower account “is better supported by the empirical evidence, both from ordinary common-sense observation, and from psychology. Indeed, the psychological literature does not just provide evidence for the existence of willpower as a force that works to block reconsideration of past resolutions; it also provides some quite detailed evidence about the nature of that force. Roughly, it seems that willpower works very much like a muscle, something that it takes effort to employ, that tires in the short run, but that can be built up in the long run” (p. 120).

  17. Evidence for Willpower: The “Marshmallow” Test

  18. Revision, Reconsideration, and Rehearsal • Holton argues that “to maintain a resolution like giving up smoking we need something in between full-blown reconsideration and unthinking action. Most resolutions are, I suspect, like this. What we need is a state that involves awareness of the resolution, and perhaps of the considerations for which it is held, but which does not involve reconsideration. The crucial factor here is that the resolution is not suspended. To remind oneself of one’s resolutions is not, by itself, to bring them into question. (One can inspect the bolts on the sluice gate without removing them.) We thus need a state of awareness that falls short of suspension: what I call rehearsal” (p. 123). • Example: Ignatius of Loyola (p. 124) • Example: The Confucian tradition

  19. Confucian Rehearsal “Master Zeng said: ‘Every day I examine myself on three counts: in my dealings with others, have I in any way failed to be dutiful? In my interactions with friends and associates, have I in any way failed to be trustworthy? Finally, have I in any way failed to put into practice what I teach?”’ (Analects I.4) (Excerpted from Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy, 2nd edition, edited by Philip J. Ivanhoe and Bryan W. Van Norden [Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2005].)

  20. How Willpower Enables Us to Resist Temptation “Let us return to temptation. Here is my picture of what happens. The agent arrives at the tempting scene with a set of beliefs and desires and intentions. Amongst the latter might be a resolution against the very temptation at issue. If so, then what happens next will depend on the agent’s motivation to abide by the resolution, on how well drafted the resolution is (how realistic, how specific and well-tied to cues) and on the strength of the agent’s willpower. Whether the temptation is ordinary or addictive, the process will be much the same. If the agent can succeed in monitoring what they are dong, whilst at the same time resisting reconsidering the resolution, then they will resist. If not, they will succumb” (p. 135).

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