A cure for akrasia


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Some of you guys have been a little down on philosophy articles lately. This article by Roy Sorensen appeared in Mind in 1997, and it is awesome, therefore all philosophy papers are awesome. 

 

Published in Mind 106/424 (October 1997) 743

A CURE FOR INCONTINENCE!

Tired of being weak-willed?  Do you want to end procrastination and back-sliding?  Are you envious of those paragons of self-control who always do what they consider best?

Thanks to a breakthrough in therapeutic philosophy, you too can now close the gap between what you think you ought to do and what you actually do.  Just send $1000 to the address below and you will never again succumb to temptation.  This is a MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE.  The first time you do something that you know to be irrational, your money will be refunded, no questions asked. Of course, you might nevertheless have some questions.  How can you act incontinently when you know that the "irrational" act will earn you a $1000 refund? Well, that's what's revolutionary in this new cure for incontinence.  

Old approaches focus on punishing the weak willed. This follows the antiquated behaviorist principle that negative reinforcement extinguishes bad behavior.  The new humanitarian approach rewards incontinence -- and lavishly at that.  The key is to make the reward so strongly motivating that an otherwise irrational act becomes rational.

Some may seek a refund on the grounds that the reward for incontinence played no role in their (apparently) incontinent act; although aware of the reward, they would have performed the act anyway.  These folks should distinguish between actual and hypothetical incontinence.  If you act in accordance with your judgement as to what is best overall, then you did nothing irrational.

True, the hypothetical incontinent act is a sign that you have a weak will.  But the presence of this disposition gives you all the more reason to block its manifestation -- by sending $1000. Granted, there are people who cannot be swayed from temptation by a mere $1000.  These recalcitrant individuals are advised to send in more than $1000.  Give until it hurts.

Rush your cheque to:

Dr. Roy Sorensen

Department of Philosophy

New York University

503 Main Building

100 Washington Square East

New York, New York 10003-6688

(Note, address is not current)

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