Desire, judgment, and reason: Exploring the path not taken

Journal of Ethics 11 (4):437 - 463 (2007)
At the outset of The Possibility of Altruism Thomas Nagel charts two paths out of the fundamental dilemma confronting metaethics. The first path rejects the claim that a persuasive account of the motivational backing of ethical judgments must involve an agent’s desires. But it is the second path, a path that Nagel charts but does not himself take, that is the focus of this essay. This path retains the standard account, upon which all motivation involves desire, but denies that desires are given prior to reason. Instead, these attitudes that motivate are themselves open to rational assessment. One reason for this focus is that many philosophers, including Quinn, Raz, and Scanlon, have come to reject the claim Nagel takes to block this path – that desires are somehow given prior to reason, hence are not in the relevant way proper objects of rational assessment. A second reason is that unlike the first path, this second does not require the rejection of the belief-desire theory, only the rejection of one assumption about the nature of conative attitudes. Unlike Nagel’s chosen path, then, the second holds out the prospect of reconciling ethical objectivity, internalism, and the belief-desire theory within a unified account. I argue that the account of desire found in Quinn, Raz, and Scanlon, augmented by aspects of Davidson’s account of propositional attitudes, yields a coherent account of the involvement of reason even in basic desires, an account that is well suited to Nagel’s intriguing path not taken.
Keywords belief-desire theory  desire  ethical objectivity  inconsistent triad  internalism  judgment-sensitive attitudes  propositional attitudes
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 23,305
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Attila Tanyi (2011). Sobel on Pleasure, Reason, and Desire. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (1):101-115.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

43 ( #110,956 of 1,932,585 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

9 ( #102,950 of 1,932,585 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.