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Self-Control through Accountability to Others



  Time: 8 May, 2017 - 9 May, 2017
  Location: School I, St Andrews

Keynote Speakers: Natalie Gold (KCL) and David Owens (KCL).

Topic Self-control can be bolstered by strategic management of our social and physical environment, as well as through sheer strength of will. Explicitly making ourselves accountable to other people – announcing goals or making promises – seems like a useful addition to the self-control arsenal: it enables us to enlist both our sense of obligation, and our awareness of potential pride or shame. This form of self-control raises a number of intriguing philosophical questions:

  • What differences are there between announcing intentions, making predictions, promising, and contracting, as methods for achieving self-control?
  • What, if any, obligations does the audience incur when offered such an announcement, prediction, promise, or contract?
  • What is the relationship between attempting self-control through making myself accountable to others, and attempting self-control through making myself accountable to my future self (and what would such self-accountability amount to)?
  • What relationship is there between making oneself accountable to others in this way, and accounts of joint intention and joint commitment, such as those due to Margaret Gilbert and Michael Bratman?
  • (How) can we achieve self-control in this way without unethically exploiting friends and family in order to meet our own goals? Is it fair to make promises you know you are unlikely to keep, in the desperate hope that this time you’ll manage to keep your word? How can we strike gain the benefits of making ourselves accountable without the ethical costs of exploiting others?
  • How does this more social form of self-control compare in value to self-control achieved in other ways? Is it more admirable to achieve self-control without needing to depend upon other people’s opinions of us, or is there perhaps a special community-oriented virtue involved with making oneself accountable to others?

Participants at the workshop are invited to address any of these questions, or indeed other questions relating to the practice of attempting self-control through making oneself accountable to others.


Monday 8th May
  • 09.00 Tea/coffee

  • 09.30 Natalie Gold (KCL) Promises and Intentions as Mechanisms of Self-Control

  • 10.45 Tea/Coffee

  • 11.10 Bryony Pierce (Bristol) If Self-Control Cannot Rely on Willpower, can Accountability to Others provide an effective substitute?

  • 12:00 Andrew Sims (UC Louvain) Team reasoning in self-control and the self-reactive attitudes

  • 12.45 Lunch

  • 14.00 Garrath Williams (Lancaster) Practices of Responsibility: Moral Capacities and ‘Holding Responsible’

  • 14.50 Leo Townsend (Oslo) Doxastic self-control through discursive commitment

  • 15.35 Tea/Coffee

  • 16.00 Karen Stohr (Georgetown) Cultivating Self-Control through Etiquette

Tuesday 9th May
  • 09.30 David Owens (KCL) Promises and Self-Control

  • 10.45 Tea/Coffee

  • 11.10 Lilian O’Brien (UC Cork) Sharing the Power of One’s Intentions With Others

  • 12.00 Samuel Murray (Notre Dame) Competence and Self-Control

  • 12.45 Lunch

  • 14.00 Paulius Rimkevičius (Vilnius) Self-Accountability and Self-Knowledge

  • 14.50 Till Vierkant (Edinburgh) Willpower and Social Tying to the Mast

Organisers: Professor Katherine Hawley ( and Mrs Lynn Hynd (