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Weakness Of Will, The Background, And Chinese Thought

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Chapter Summary

John Searle and Nomy Arpaly have argued that weak-willed action is not characteristically irrational. This chapter focuses on Searle's discussion of weakness of will and brings it to bear on central aspects of the traditional Chinese conception of weak-willed action. Searle's discussion concerns proposals concerning how to explain the phenomenon of weakness of will, and so he says little about the practical ethical problem of how an agent can avoid weak-willed actions. Yet his attack on the conventional conception of the problem can be taken as an invitation to shift emphasis to the practical issue. The chapter suggests that a plausible way for Searle to address the practical problem of weakness of will would be to show how weaknesses of the self in carrying out intentions can be ameliorated by strengthening capacities included in the Background, much as the development of such capacities enables us to master skills.

Keywords: Background capacities; John Searle; Nomy Arpaly; traditional Chinese conception; weakness of will

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