Backsliding: Understanding Weakness of Will Hardcover – Apr 18 2012
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"Alfred Mele here caps, or continues, an impressive sequence of well-argued monographs on connected topics by one that is commendably brief. It offers at once a reconsideration that touches on recent developments, and a summing-up that resumes past discussions. The result will be welcome, and can be widely recommended. It includes well-developed arguments against what can seem two plausible claims, that backsliding is always compulsive, and that one cannot be effectively motivated to adopt a strategy to weaken the force of what is currently one's strongest motivation." --Mind
About the Author
Alfred R. Mele is the William H. and Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University. He is the author of six previous OUP books: Irrationality (1987), Springs of Action (1992), Autonomous Agents (1995), Motivation and Agency (2003), Free Will and Luck (2006), and Effective Intentions (2009). He also is the editor of The Philosophy of Action (OUP 1997) and a coeditor of four other OUP volumes: Mental Causation (1993), The Oxford Handbook of Rationality (2004), Rationality and the Good (2007), and Free Will and Consciousness: How Might They Work? (2010).
Inside This Book(Learn More)
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Of special note is the shift from "strict akratic action" in Mele's seminal 1987 Irrationality and toward the slightly modified "core akratic (or weak-willed) action." Core akratic action includes the earlier "free intentional action against the agents own better judgment" but clarifies that the action be "sane," "based on practical reasoning," and that the agent be "non-depressed." Here Mele is both shoring up his position against criticism and positioning his view rhetorically as the central account.
Mele addresses the common language controversy between himself and Richard Holton. He is less than thorough about it and so the argument is only somewhat persuasive. But, the dispute made is clear.
The section on free-will is aimed at avoiding a full blown account of free action, but is still moderately technical. Not a good primer on free will, but a fair accounting of how to discuss weakness of will without such an account. Mele draws together lots of his previous work.
By far the most exciting element of the book is the chapter explaining "backsliding" or the process of failing to act on a reasoned judgment about what all things considered ought to be done. This section is a very helpful synthesis of Mele's previous work into a compelling account of practical rationality and failure.
Mele ends by discussing some of the results described in Baumeister's recent book Willpower.
All in all, this is a good book, well written and packed with connections between more tightly argued articles.