Are there passive desires?

Dialectica 63 (2):133-155 (2009)
What is the relation between desire and action? According to a traditional, widespread and influential view I call 'The Motivational Necessity of Desire' (MN), having a desire that p entails being disposed to act in ways that you believe will bring about p . But what about desires like a desire that the committee chooses you without your needing to do anything, or a desire that your child passes her exams on her own? Such 'self-passive' desires are often given as a counter-example to MN. If MN is true then self-passive desires seem absurd: if someone has a self-passive desire she will be disposed to act, thereby preventing her from getting what she desires. But it seems that we can reasonably, and often do, have such desires. However, I argue that self-passive desires are not, in fact, counter-examples to MN: close consideration of the content of these desires, the contexts in which we ascribe them, and what is claimed by MN show that they are not a problem for that view. I also argue that strengthened versions of the examples are unsuccessful, and I offer a diagnosis of why these kinds of case are commonly thought to raise a challenge to MN.
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DOI 10.1111/j.1746-8361.2009.01187.x
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