chapter  7
27 Pages

Akrasia and addiction

Neurophilosophy and psychological mechanisms
WithReinout W. Wiers, Simon van Gaal, Mike E. Le Pelley

Akrasia comes from the Greek term “lacking command” (Heather 2017) and refers to cases where people appear to act against their better judgment or cases of “weaknesses of the will” (Plato 1990; Ribot 1896). In contemporary life, addictions (Heather 2017) and obesity may serve as prime examples: the health dangers related to smoking, drinking, and excessive eating are well known, yet millions continue to engage in these behaviors, at enormous social and economic costs (Effertz and Mann 2013; Willett et al. 2019). Of course, there are examples where people prefer the hedonic short-term effect of an unhealthy choice over the (potential) long-term benefits of a healthier choice, which would not count as akrasia. True akrasia concerns cases where people fail to understand their own choices: they knew taking a single cigarette after successful abstinence was taking a foolish risk of falling back into smoking, which they really did not want, and yet, that is exactly what they did (cf., Heather 2017). 1