By Destrée, P. (ed.), Bobonich, Ch. (ed.), Christopher Bobonich, Pierre Destree

The thirteen contributions of this collective supply new and demanding methods of analyzing recognized and extra ignored texts on akrasia (lack of keep watch over, or weak point of will) in Greek philosophy (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Plotinus).

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For it’s not like a self-controlled person to avoid and pursue what isn’t appropriate, but to avoid and pursue what he should, whether these are things to do or people, or pleasure and pains, and to stand fast and to endure where he should’ (507b5–8). Devereux’s point is that it seems to make little sense to talk about ‘fighting’ and ‘standing fast’ and ‘enduring’ unless that against which one fights, stands fast, and endures exercises some motivational influence on the virtuous agent. So according to Devereux, there is nothing about the Socratic conception of virtue that precludes the possibility of the virtuous soul being pulled in different directions by its rational and nonrational desires.

Nonrational desire need not enter the explanatory picture. But before we accept the traditionalist’s understanding of Socrates’ position, we would do well to take a closer look at just what endows an object with the power of appearance. As we have seen, the clear suggestion of Socrates’ account of how the craft of measurement saves us is that proximity to the agent plays a crucial role in the explanation. 8 thomas c. brickhouse and nicholas d. smith Socrates’ examples—size, depth, number and sounds (Protagoras 356c5–8)— certainly lead one to think that the sort of proximity he has in mind is spatial proximity.

Others, who have not developed strong appetites or passions but who also do not have the craft of measurement, have either right or wrong opinion about their own good but their cognitive states are not determined by their conative dispositions. ’ If our argument in this paper is correct, those who fail to heed this advice are doomed ‘. . to wander all over the place in confusion’ (Protagoras 356d6–7), always at the mercy of the power of appearance. Maintaining our appetites and passions in a disciplined condition, then, does not guarantee that we will always make the right choices; but it serves, at least, to allow us to continue considering all of the reasons available to us for making choices, and thus allows us to continue making choices, rather than leaving us in a condition where our choices become foregone conclusions, because our capacity to judge has been diminished by the potent effects of strong appetites or passions.

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