Rational Capacities, or: How to Distinguish Recklessness, Weakness, and Compulsion

Michael Smith

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)


We ordinarily suppose that there is a difference between having and failing to exercise a rational capacity on the one hand, and lacking a rational capacity altogether on the other. This is crucial for our allocations of responsibility. Someone who has but fails to exercise a capacity is responsible for their failure to exercise their capacity, whereas someone who lacks a capacity altogether is not. However, as Gary Watson pointed out in his seminal essay 'Skepticism about Weakness of Will', the idea of an unexercised capacity is much more difficult to make sense of than it initially appears. The aim of 'Rational Capacities' is to provide the needed explication of this idea.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWeakness of Will and Practical Irrationality
PublisherOxford University Press, USA
ISBN (Electronic)9780191601842
ISBN (Print)0199257361, 9780199257362
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Compulsion
  • Dispositions
  • Finkish
  • Free will
  • Freedom
  • Rational capacity
  • Responsibility
  • Weakness of will

Cite this