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Religions 2015, 6(2), 419-433;

Teaching Socrates, Aristotle, and Augustine on Akrasia

Department of History, Politics, and Philosophy, Lipscomb University, One University Park Drive, Nashville, TN 37204, USA
This is a revised version of a paper presented at the “Teaching the Christian Intellectual Tradition” Conference on Augustine, Samford University, Birmingham, AL, USA, 2–4 October 2014.
Academic Editors: Scott McGinnis and Chris Metress
Received: 12 December 2014 / Revised: 23 March 2015 / Accepted: 31 March 2015 / Published: 9 April 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Teaching Augustine)
PDF [186 KB, uploaded 9 April 2015]


A long-standing debate among moral philosophers centers on the question of whether ignorance is always at the root of moral wrongdoing, or whether, in certain cases, wrongdoing stems from something else—namely akrasia. This paper is a discussion of how undergraduate core curriculum teachers can incorporate Augustine’s work into this debate. I begin by briefly reconstructing Socrates’ and Aristotle’s accounts of wrongdoing, and then I sketch an Augustinian approach to the issue. Socrates contends that ignorance is the fundamental source of all wrongdoing; hence, akrasia is illusory. Though Aristotle’s view can seem more roundabout than Socrates’, it, too, is plausibly interpreted as entailing that robust, open-eyed akrasia is impossible. For Augustine, prior to receiving the illumination that comes with God’s grace, an individual’s sinfulness can be characterized as being the result of ignorance concerning the proper focus of one’s love. However, after receiving this illuminating grace, sinful action can be characterized as an instance of akrasia. View Full-Text
Keywords: Augustine; akrasia; pedagogy; ethics Augustine; akrasia; pedagogy; ethics
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Clanton, J.C. Teaching Socrates, Aristotle, and Augustine on Akrasia. Religions 2015, 6, 419-433.

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