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Friday, January 25, 2019

Decision-Making and Self-Governing Systems

Adina L. Roskies
October 2018, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 245–257


Neuroscience has illuminated the neural basis of decision-making, providing evidence that supports specific models of decision-processes. These models typically are quite mechanical, the realization of abstract mathematical “diffusion to bound” models. While effective decision-making seems to be essential for sophisticated behavior, central to an account of freedom, and a necessary characteristic of self-governing systems, it is not clear how the simple models neuroscience inspires can underlie the notion of self-governance. Drawing from both philosophy and neuroscience I explore ways in which the proposed decision-making architectures can play a role in systems that can reasonably be thought of as “self-governing”.

Here is an excerpt:

The importance of prospection for self-governance cannot be underestimated. One example in which it promises to play an important role is in the exercise of and failures of self-control. Philosophers have long been puzzled by the apparent possibility of akrasia or weakness of will: choosing to act in ways that one judges not to be in one’s best interest. Weakness of will is thought to be an example of irrational choice. If one’s theory of choice is that one always decides to pursue the option that has the highest value, and that it is rational to choose what one most values, it is hard to explain irrational choices. Apparent cases of weakness of will would really be cases of mistaken valuation: overvaluing an option that is in fact not the most valuable option. And indeed, if one cannot rationally criticize the strength of desires (see Hume’s famous observation that “it is not against reason that I should prefer the destruction of half the world to the pricking of my little finger”), we cannot explain irrational choice.

The article is here.