Talk by Richard Holton (Cambridge)

April 8th

The Cluster of Excellence "Knowledge in Crisis" jointly with the Vienna Moral Philosophy Group is organising a talk by Prof. Richard Holton (University of Cambridge).

The talk will take place on Monday, April 8th 15.00 - 16.30 in Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock.


Frustration, temptation, and the different faces of commitment
(joint work with Eleanor Holton)

Abstract: Most philosophical discussions of self-control have focused on temptation: on what is needed to resist giving in to appealing alternatives. In contrast a body of work in neuroscience has focused on when foragers give up on an existing task, and start looking for alternatives. It might seem that that these are just two sides of the same coin: to give up on what one is doing is to give in to a tempting alternative. The orthodox choice framework in which preference is understood as a ranking of two alternatives, can encourage that. But phenomenologically the two seem very different, and this can be supported by the idea that decisions to change involve a two-step process: first a decision whether or not to reconsider, and only then a choice amongst alternatives. We review the existing evidence, and present some new findings, indicating that perseverance in a task is largely underpinned not by adding relative value to the chosen option, but by the decreased salience of alternatives. This suggests that frustration, the failure of the current task to provide the expected returns would be a more powerful motivation for reconsideration than the temptation provided by other alternatives. Thee empirical findings support this. It also provides an explanation of why intentions do not lock an agent into a given course