The Philosophy Resource

Teaching resources for philosophy students and teachers

Akrasia in the curricula

The issues raised by this section of The Philosophy Resource fit into school curricula in two ways: in connection with ethics or moral philosophy; and in connection with Plato.

AQA GCE A-level Specification

The issues of this section of The Philosophy Resource fit into the A-level syllabus in two places.

  • Moral Philosophy is one of the themes covered in Unit 3 PHIL 3 Key Themes in Philosophy
  • Moral Truth and The denial of moral truth are two of the subsections of this theme.

Akrasia is key to two of the topics listed as to be covered in the subsection Moral Truth: ‘Moral knowledge and weakness of will’: this just is the problem of akrasia. ‘Moral truth as based on relational properties which provide reasons for action’: a version of this view emerges in the Aristotelian solution to the problem of akrasia which is considered here.

The topics to be covered among issues relating to The denial of moral truth are:

  • The possibility of judging the abhorrent practices of other cultures/individuals
  • The possibility of moral progress and moral mistakes
  • The extent to which we can value what we like.

Akrasia is important for understanding the possibility of moral mistakes, and the extent to which we can value what we like. Wider issues about moral truth and its denial are raised by the difficulty of explaining what’s irrational about akrasia. They connect with the question of how there can be agreement and disagreement on moral questions.

Plato’s Republic is one of the texts specified in Unit 4 PHIL 4 Philosophical Problems Knowledge is virtue is one of the ideas which candidates should demonstrate a knowledge of. Knowledge and virtue is one of the problem areas which the syllabus says essays should focus on.

Plato’s view of akrasia is central to this theme. The reason why this is important for Plato is that Socrates seems to have thought that virtue just is a kind of knowledge, and that seems to rule out akrasia. In the Republic, Plato seems to allow for the possibility of something very like akrasia: the question then is whether he continues to think that having a certain sort of knowledge is enough for virtue.

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme

The issues of this section of The Philosophy Resource ties into the IB curriculum in two places

Part 1: Themes
Theories and problems of ethics is one of the Optional Themes. The nature of moral judgement—meta-ethics is one of the listed possible objects of study. The problem of akrasia provides a good way in to understanding this topic. Understanding the problem of akrasia and working out solutions to it will help to develop answers to the following two questions listed for this topic of study:

  • Is moral sense subjective or objective?
  • What is the significance of calling something right or wrong?

Part 2: Prescribed philosophical text
Republic, Books IV-IX is one of the prescribed philososophical texts. The argument in the Republic where Plato seems to allow for the possibility of akrasia is the argument for the division of the soul in Book IV. Understanding that argument is crucial to understanding the relations between the different parts of the soul, and hence to understanding the conceptions of the person and of the state which are presented throughout Books IV-IX.