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Study about the concept of akrasia in Aristotelian ethics

Grant number: 11/22799-5
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Scientific Initiation
Effective date (Start): March 01, 2012
Effective date (End): September 30, 2012
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Philosophy - Ethics
Principal researcher:Lucas Angioni
Grantee:Fernanda Rodrigues Tosto Almeida
Home Institution: Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Humanas (IFCH). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil


The concept of akrasia appears in the works Ethica Nicomachea and Ethica Eudemia, both by Aristotle, and it characterizes a certain capacity of a person to act against their knowledge about what is right. Aristotle believes the akrasia isn't ignorance of what is right, as it conceives the akratic person as someone who deliberates correctly, makes the right decision, and only fails when applying their decision to the action. This position of Aristotle gets clearer, specially, on chapter 8 of Ethica Nicomachea's book VII. However, to explain the flaw involved in the akrasia, it's important to consider the structure of the action: the man deliberates over the action to take and, for that, a practical syllogism is used, constituted of two premises, an universal one, and a private one. Some commentators say the akratic person doesn't have the knowledge of the private premise and, for that, it fails when the right decision should be made, and, consequently, makes a wrong action. Others say the akratic has the private premise, but fails to draw the conclusion of the practical syllogism and makes the wrong action. These two explanations about the behavior of the akratic are not satisfactory, because, as it was said before, the akratic deliberates correctly, makes the right decision and only fails when applying the right decision on the action. This flaw is due to an impulse that leads the akratic to do what their appetite wants and, that appetite makes the agent put the right decision aside, and implement, then, the wrong action. The akratic knows their act is wrong, because they regret it as soon as they know what the right thing that should've been done is. Thus, it's necessary to explain in a clear way how the akrasia occurs.