Chapter SixRight on Purpose

Doing Right by Yourself

How to Be Half-Wicked

The Greeks had a word for it: akrasia. Sometimes translated as “weakness of will.” Sometimes as “incontinence.” Sometimes not translated at all.175

However you put it, though, it’s a phenomenon we’re all familiar with. Think of those situations in which you know the right thing to do but in which your desire for something else overcomes you. You’re fully aware of what you should do, but you can’t help yourself. You know that what you’re about to do is bad, but you do it anyway.

Aristotle talks at length of akrasia, contrasting his view of human nature with Socrates’. For Socrates, akrasia is impossible; the only reason people do bad things is because they are ignorant. ...

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