Weakness Of Will And The Problem Of Evil

I used to think of weakness of will as a pleasant, little philosophical problem. I thought, “Hey, this is interesting. Most of us are weak willed. Now, let’s play around with definitions and obscure philosophical problems about it.”

In fact, in grad school I presented a view on weakness of will that I don’t really remember, but probably would now reject. It was a fun logical game for me.

However, after coming across people who are in fact evil, I see that weakness of will is heavily related to the problem of evil.

In short (and philosophers certainly disagree on such things!), weakness of will is doing something against your better judgement. You know it’s wrong, but you do it, anyway.

I’m going to take a perhaps controversial example to illustrate this. Most Americans think watching porn is morally wrong. Yet, an absurd number of them do it, anyway. Say what you want, but according to books such as The New Naked (a book I recently read), watching porn distorts what you think is desirable, beautiful, sexy–and it can even lead to serious sexual dysfunction!

You know it’s wrong, but you do it, anyway. That’s weakness of will.

How is this related to evil?

Well, it seems simple enough to me. If you watch porn, to go back to our example, and your mind is warped by it, you walk around the world with this warped mind. You may impose beauty standards that mimic porn. You may find certain people physically undesirable because you measure them to porn. All kinds of things that are utterly, utterly sexist!

And it’s all because of weakness of will.

If you don’t like my porn example, you can most certainly use another. But, at any rate, the issue of weakness of will is not just some fun, little logic problem. It’s a serious issue. It’s a real issue. It impacts millions of people all over the world.

Now, I’m not saying weakness of will is the root of all evil. But it’s definitely the root of some.

The real issue, then, is not our fun philosophical definitions of weakness of will. It’s how we solve the real issue of weakness of will. And, for that, I’ll have to do more reading and thinking. 


Author: Jennifer Lawson

Philosopher. That is all.

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