When was the last time you clearly knew that something wasn’t right but did it anyways? Had that extra drink or cookie? Didn’t manage your temper around your kids or spouse? Wasted time online instead of completing that report? The Greek philosophers were fascinated by this experience, which they termed akrasia—weakness of the will.
How is it possible that our mighty brains would identify something as in our best interest and yet we would fail to choose it? Isn’t man the “rational animal”? The Greeks were divided in their answers.
Socrates—proclaimed the wisest of all by the Oracle at Delphi—believed that if you are doing the wrong thing, you must in some sense not truly know what the right thing is, for “no one goes willingly toward the bad.”
I have an akratic problem with lifting weights. I know it’s important for my bone and muscle health, and I’ll wake up on a given morning and tell myself that my workout that day will be weight training. I’ll have coffee, get on shorts and sneakers, and then, somehow, I really can’t explain it, end up going for a jog instead, or heading to yoga, or sitting and writing a post. Anything but going into the basement to pick up those dumbbells. When I pause to think about it, I feel tormented, but rarely is that enough to improve my choice.