, , , , , , , , ,


the state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgement through weakness of will.
Origin: early 19th century: from Greek, from a- ‘without’ + kratos ‘power, strength’. The term is used especially with reference to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.

Oxford Dictionaries.


[Update: major fail. But still hope.]

My store of draft posts for this blog is over a hundred, and yet my average posting (postage?) rate is less than one per week. And in the last 5 weeks I’ve managed one post.

No lack of enthusiasm, but for each of those draft posts I have an excuse. What I want is the will to execute.

A bit of self-binding is in order: to commit myself in some way that any weakness or procrastination must harm my interests. I know the right thing to do, and this commitment compels me to reject akrasia.

Not convinced? Maybe the 16th century can help …

In 1519 Hernan Cortes scuttled his invasion fleet on the coast of Mexico – his purpose was to remove the temptation of returning to the Spanish base in Cuba: if his troops failed to carry on with the campaign, they were sure to die in the retreat.

cortes scuttles-1280px-ScuttleFleetNHMDF

Cortes’ fleet scuttled off Veracruz (click for source).

A complex example, because the extreme incentive of death applied to both the weakness and the wickedness of the troops – retreat may have been sought by some through weariness or fear, but by others through an ambition to undermine the authority of Cortes. The motives were morally distinct.

That distinction runs throughout ancient teaching – Plato, Aristotle, St Paul, Plutarch – and was taken up in the Renaissance by Erasmus, Castiglione and Calvin. And so on to The Faerie Queene by the late Tudor poet, Edmund Spenser, who described the progression from weakness to vice:

… Most wretched Man,
That to Affections does the Bridle lend;
In their beginning they are weak and wan,
But soon thro Suff’rance grow to fearful end;
While they are weak, betimes with them contend:
For when they once to perfect Strength do grow,
Strong Wars they make, and cruel Battry bend
‘Gainst Fort of Reason, it to overthrow:
Wrath, Jealousy, Grief, Love, this Squire have laid thus low.

Spenser’s big picture shows the path to hell, whereas I’m just trying to overcome my New Year blogging blues.

Okay, I brought a knife to a gunfight, so I’ll turn to the less severe Montaigne, in his essay Of Crueltie (transl. 1603):

Some vices I shun; but othersome I eschew as much as any saint can doe.

The proposition is clear: to eschew Tudorblog’s weakness and laziness by encouraging posts in a respectable ratio to my drafts. In other words, a New Year’s resolution to cure my akrasia.

How? Beeminder.

Aim? Six posts per month.

Incentive? A chart of my progress.*


*I may post these charts. Or not. Promising to post them would add incentive, yes? So I’ll consider that … later.

And Beeminder gives the clever option of a money forfeit, due whenever I move outside the chart’s wiggle room. Sadly, it’s just after Christmas and I’m a bit skint, plus taxes and insurance renewals coming up, various birthdays & funerals etc. …


ps. to all victims of akrasia – “a transgression against the self” – don’t forget to forgive yourself.