Moral Psychology

This is the web page for the graduate course 24.502 Topics in Metaphysics & Ethics (Moral Psychology) given by Richard Holton at MIT, Fall Semester 2005. For copyright reasons, many of the links here will only work for students enrolled for this course. The class will take place on Monday afternoons, 2.00 - 5.00, in 32-d841 (the Eighth Floor Seminar Room).

Week One: Anscombe on Intention

Core Reading

Further Readings

Week Two: Intention & Belief

Core Readings

Further Reading

Week Three: Akrasia

Core readings

Further Readings

Week Four: Weakness of Will


Week Five: Strength of Will, Descriptive Issues


George Ainslie ‘A Selectionist Model of the Ego: Implications for Self-Control’ forthcoming in N Sebanz and W. Prinz (eds.) Disorders of Volition (MIT Press).M. Muraven and R. Baumeister, ‘Self-Regulation and Depletion of Limited Resources: Does Self-Control Resemble a Muscle?‘, Psychological Bulletin 126 (2000) pp. 247­59. Available from the Baumeister/Tice Lab Homepage (follow the link to ‘Lab Publications’, then scroll down to the heading ‘Ego Depletion’)

R. Holton ‘How is Strength of Will Possible?’ in S. Stroud and C Tappolet (eds.) Weakness of Will and Practical Irrationality (Oxford University Press, 2003). [Acrobat version]

Week Six: Strength of Will, Normative Issues

Core Reading

G. Kavka, ‘The Toxin Puzzle’, Analysis 43 (1983), pp. 33-6.

M. Bratman ‘Toxin, Temptation and the Stability of Intention’ in Faces of Intention pp. 58-90.

J. Broome, ‘Are Intentions Reasons? And How Should We Cope with Incommensurable Values?’, in C. Morris and A. Ripstein (eds.),_ Practical Rationality and Preference: Essays for David Gauthier_ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001) pp. 98-120. Online version

R. Holton ‘Rational Resolve’ forthcoming in The Philosophical Review [Acrobat version]

Week Seven: Addiction

Core Reading

Gideon Yaffe, Recent Work on Addiction and Responsible Agency

Berridge and Robinson ‘The Mind of an Addicted BrainCurrent Directions in Psychological Science 43 (1995)

G. Watson, ‘Disordered Appetites’ in his Agency and Answerability (NB this pdf isn’t blank as it first appears: rotate 90 anticlockwise)

– ‘Excusing AddictionLaw and Philosophy vol. 18 no. 6 (1999) 589-619 (if the link doesn’t work, available electronically via Vera).

Additional Reading

George Loewenstein, A Visceral Account of Addiction

G. Becker and K Murphy, A Theory of Rational Addiction, Journal of Political Economy 96 (1988) 675-700 (if the link doesn’t work, available electronically via Vera).

Session Eight: Free Will

Core Reading

Frankfurt Harry Frankfurt Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person Journal of Philosophy 68 (1971)

Harry Frankfurt Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility

Gary Watson ‘Free Action and Free Will’, Mind 96 (1987)

Week Nine: Strawson

Core Readings

Strawson ‘Freedom and Resentment

Susan Wolf, ‘The Importance of Freewill’ Mind 90 (1981)

Gary Watson, Responsibility and the Limits of Evil

Week Ten: Libertarianism, Choice


Robert Kane ‘Two Kinds of Incompatibilism’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 50 (1989)

E. Nahmias et al. ‘The Phenomenology of Free Will’

Richard Holton, ‘The Act of Choice

Week Eleven: Identification


Frankfurt, ‘Identification and Wholeheartedness’Frankfurt, ‘The Faintest Passion’

Scanlon, ‘Reasons and Passions’, Contours of Agency, eds. Buss and Overton

Moran, ‘Frankfurt on Identification’, Contours of Agency, eds. Buss and Overton

Deci, E. L. & Ryan, R. M. (1987). ‘The support of autonomy and the control of behavior’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 1024-1037.

Further reading:
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). ‘The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior’, Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227-268.

Week Twelve: Self-Deception


A. Mele, ‘Real Self-Deception’, Behavioural and Brain Sciences 20, 1997 pp. 91-136. Electronic Version (Note: this is a pre-print, and doesn’t include the peer commentary that appeared with the printed version).

R. Holton, ‘What is the role of the self in self-deception?’ Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 2000 /1. Acrobat version

Daniel Dyke The Mystery of Selfe-Deceiving, a scan of the Bodleian edition of 1614, from the Early English Books Online database, for anyone who gets seriously interested.