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Desire

Edited by Neil Sinhababu (National University of Singapore)
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Summary Philosophers are interested in desire's role in motivating action, shaping deliberation, giving us reasons, constituting moral judgment, and increasing one's well-being when it is satisfied. There is much debate about which of these roles desire plays, and how it might play them.
Key works David Hume's Treatise of Human Nature is the locus classicus for defenses of desire's role in motivating action and constituting moral judgment.  Michael Smith's The Humean Theory of Motivation is the most-discussed contemporary defense of a Humean theory of motivation, while Neil Sinhababu's The Humean Theory of Motivation Reformulated and Defended provides an empirical argument for the theory. Timothy Schroeder's Three Faces of Desire is a leading contemporary discussion of the psychology and neuroscience of desire -- particularly its connections to motivation, pleasure, and reinforcement learning. In Praise of Desire by Nomy Arpaly and Timothy Schroeder discusses the nature of desire and its role in constituting moral agency. Mark Schroeder's Slaves of the Passions is the most prominent contemporary defense of a Humean account of reasons, which treats reasons as considerations promoting desire-satisfaction.
Introductions Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Desire
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Subcategories:See also:History/traditions: Desire
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  1. Galit Atlas (2015). The Enigma of Desire: Sex, Longing, and Belonging in Psychoanalysis. Routledge.
    The Enigma of Desire: Sex, Longing and Belonging in Psychoanalysis, introduces new perspectives on desire and longing, in and outside of the analytic relationship._ _This exciting volume explores the known and unknown, ghosts and demons, sexuality and lust. Galit Atlas discusses the subjects of sex and desire and explores what she terms the Enigmatic and the Pragmatic aspects of sexuality, longing, female desire, sexual inhibition, pregnancy, parenthood and creativity. The author focuses on the levels of communication that take place in (...)
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  2. Desire Beyond Belief (2004). Reprinted in Lewisian Themes: The Philosophy of David K. Lewis, Eds. Frank Jackson and Graham Priest, Oxford University Press, 2004, 78-93. [REVIEW] Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82:77-92.
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  3. A. C. W. Bethel (1980). Wanting to Want. Philosophy Research Archives 6:118-125.
    Professor Harry Frankfurt has made a distinction between what he calls first-order desires, such as a desire for a Porsche, and second-order desires, such as a desire to desire a Porsche. He claims that this analysis of the structure of the will can provide an account of free human action. I argue against Frankfurt as follows: First, his account does not really free our wills, but only binds our wills at successively higher levels of desire; second, there is no good (...)
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  4. Sharon Bowman (ed.) (2010). The Practices of the Self. University of Chicago Press.
    What is the nature of the fundamental relation we have to ourselves that makes each of us a self? To answer this question, Charles Larmore develops a systematic theory of the self, challenging the widespread view that the self’s defining relation to itself is to have an immediate knowledge of its own thoughts. On the contrary, Larmore maintains, our essential relation to ourselves is practical, as is clear when we consider the nature of belief and desire. For to believe or (...)
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  5. Michael Boylan (2010). The Extinction of Desire: A Tale of Enlightenment. Wiley-Blackwell.
    What would you do if you suddenly became rich? Michael O’Meara had never asked himself this question. A high school history teacher in Maryland, Michael is content- until, after a freak accident, he unexpectedly finds himself the beneficiary of a million dollars that disrupt his life and leave him questioning everything he had and everything he thought he wanted. _The Extinction of Desire_ blends Buddhist philosophy and fiction to maps the course of one man’s voyage to uncover the fundamental truths (...)
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  6. Michael Boylan (2009). The Extinction of Desire: A Tale of Enlightenment. Wiley-Blackwell.
    What would you do if you suddenly became rich? Michael O’Meara had never asked himself this question. A high school history teacher in Maryland, Michael is content- until, after a freak accident, he unexpectedly finds himself the beneficiary of a million dollars that disrupt his life and leave him questioning everything he had and everything he thought he wanted. _The Extinction of Desire_ blends Buddhist philosophy and fiction to maps the course of one man’s voyage to uncover the fundamental truths (...)
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  7. Michael Boylan (2007). The Extinction of Desire: A Tale of Enlightenment. Wiley-Blackwell.
    What would you do if you suddenly became rich? Michael O’Meara had never asked himself this question. A high school history teacher in Maryland, Michael is content- until, after a freak accident, he unexpectedly finds himself the beneficiary of a million dollars that disrupt his life and leave him questioning everything he had and everything he thought he wanted. _The Extinction of Desire_ blends Buddhist philosophy and fiction to maps the course of one man’s voyage to uncover the fundamental truths (...)
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  8. Paul Condon, John Dunne, Christine Wilson-Mendenhall, Wendy Hasenkamp, Karen Quigley & Lisa Barrett, Self and Desire as Seeds of Virtue.
    According to Buddhist philosophies, recognizing the self as impermanent, changing, and interdependent is at the root of virtue. With this realization, desires shift away from inward self-cherishing and toward outward self-transcending. This altruistic outlook underlies virtuous action and flourishing. Our primary research question asks: 1) to what extent do people experience self-transcending and self-cherishing desires in everyday life, and 2) to what extent do these different desires predict behaviors and body physiology that underlie virtue and well-being. As highlighted by the (...)
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  9. John Daniels (2009). Wanting Nothing: Imitation and Production in the Economy of Desire. New Blackfriars 90 (1025):90-107.
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  10. Miguel de Beistegui, Desires We Live By.
    Miguel de Beistegui on the changing role of desire.
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  11. N. J. H. Dent & John Benson (1976). Varieties of Desire. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 50 (1):153 - 192.
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  12. Jörg Disse (2013). Das Interesse der Vernunft und die Frage nach dem guten Leben. In Matthias Hoesch Markus Rüth & Sebastian Muders (eds.), Glück – Werte – Sinn. Metaethische, ethische und theologische Zugänge zur Frage nach dem guten Leben. de Gruyter. pp. 243-262.
    In kritischer Anlehnung an die empirischen Kognitionspsychologie von K.E. Stanovich erweist sich das menschliche Verlangen wesentlich von drei übergeordenten Interessen geprägt: ein Interesse der Gene an der Replikation ihrer selbst, ein Interesse des Individuums am eigenen Glück, und ein Interesse der Vernunft, das auf die universale Verwirklichung des Guten um seiner selbst willen gerichtet ist. Je nachdem, von welchem Interesse sich der Mensch in seinem Leben leiten lässt, verleiht es seinem Verständnis vom guten Leben eine grundsätzlich andere Richtung. Was gutes (...)
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  13. Jörg Disse (2010). Glück - Vollkommenheit - Gott. Reflexionen zu einer Metaphysik des Verlangens. In Jörg Disse Bernd Goebel (ed.), Gott und die Frage nach dem Glück. Anthropologische und ethische Perspektiven. Verlag Josef Knecht. pp. 253-290.
    The article analyses a basic idea of Christian anthropology: that all human desire is ultimately a desire of God.
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  14. Jörg Disse (2010). Religion und das Verlangen des Menschen nach Vollkommenheit. Neue Zeitschrift für Systematicsche Theologie Und Religionsphilosophie 52 (3):247-267.
    SUMMARY: The article deals with the question of whether human beings are religious by nature. The answer is based on the idea of relating religion to the structure of human desire understood as essentially a desire for absolute perfection. Religion is defined as a relation to a non-sensual reality superior to the human realm which enables human beings to find orientation in life. The relationship of religion to human desire consists in its being an expression of a natural desire for (...)
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  15. Louis Dupré (2000). Philosophy and the Natural Desire for God. International Philosophical Quarterly 40 (2):141-148.
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  16. Arthur Falk (2004). Desire and Belief: Introduction to Some Philosophical Debates. University Press of America.
    First published in 2004, this book is a rigorous textbook on the metaphysics of the mind for advanced students of philosophy, covering the background they need to understand the debates and bringing them to the frontiers of current research. It is also a monograph on the nature of de re and de se states of mind, incorporating material the author published in journals. The short file you will see is only a gateway to more than two dozen other files which (...)
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  17. Andy Foeller, Desires Aren't So Bad. Proceedings of the Heraclitean Society 18.
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  18. Richard Francis Foley (1975). The Desire Theory and Metaethics. Dissertation, Brown University
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  19. Christopher Framarin (2004). Ni K Makarma: How Desireless Need One Be? Asian Philosophy 14 (3):239 – 254.
    In the Bhagavadgīt K a advises Arjuna to act without desire. He also describes the ni k makarmin as possessed of perfect equanimity. Some scholars have argued that K a's advice is a contradiction. Because action requires desire, desireless action is impossible. Others have claimed that this fact only suggests that K a's prohibition is against a subset of desires and not desire as a whole. These 'subset' positions, however, are not consistent with the equanimity requirement. The conclusion that K (...)
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  20. Christopher G. Framarin (2008). Motivation in the Nyāyasūtra and Brahmasiddhi. Religious Studies 44 (1):43-61.
    One common interpretation of the orthodox Indian prohibition on desire is that it is a prohibition on phenomenologically salient desires. The Nyāyasūtra and Brahmasiddhi seem to support this view. I argue that this interpretation is mistaken. The Vedāntins draw a distinction between counting some fact as a reason for acting (icchā) and counting one's desire (rāga) as a reason for acting, and prohibit the latter. The Naiyāyikas draw a distinction between desiring to avoid some state of affairs (dveṣa) and believing (...)
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  21. Daniel Friedrich (2012). The Alluringness of Desire. Philosophical Explorations 15 (3):291 - 302.
    A central aspect of desire is the alluringness with which the desired object appears to the desirer. But what explains the alluringness of desire? According to the standard view, desire presents its objects with a certain allure because desire involves believing that the desired object is good. However, this cannot explain how those who lack the cognitive sophistication required for evaluative concepts can nonetheless have desires, how nihilists can continue to have desires, nor how we can desire things we believe (...)
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  22. M. G. (1973). Welfare. Review of Metaphysics 27 (1):154-154.
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  23. Bruce Goldberg (1965). Can a Desire Be a Cause? Analysis 25 (3):70 - 72.
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  24. Alan Goldman (2009). Desires and Reasons. American Philosophical Quarterly 46 (4):291 - 304.
    In an article on whether desires generate practical reasons, Ruth Chang points out that philosophers have gravitated to extreme positions in their answers to this question. Internalists argue that all reasons derive from desires, while externalists argue that none, or virtually none, do. She, by contrast, holds that some reasons derive from desires and some from objective values. According to her, single desires in themselves can provide reasons for actions based simply on the desires' affective nature. But in her view (...)
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  25. Alan H. Goldman (2017). What Desires Are, and Are Not. Philosophical Studies 174 (2):333-352.
    This paper criticizes the account of desire defended by Nomy Arpaly and Timothy Schroeder in their recent book, In Praise of Desire. It contrasts their account with one that I favor, a cluster analysis listing various criteria that are together sufficient for having paradigm desires, but none of which is necessary or sufficient for desiring. I argue that their account fails to state necessary or sufficient conditions, that it is explanatorily weaker than the cluster account, that it fails to provide (...)
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  26. Alan H. Goldman (2006). Desire Based Reasons and Reasons for Desires. Southern Journal of Philosophy 44 (3):469-488.
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  27. Daniel Goldstick (2009). Appendix 2: ‘Desire’. In Reason, Truth and Reality. University of Toronto Press. pp. 327-332.
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  28. Lane Gormley (1984). Desire in Language. International Studies in Philosophy 16 (3):90-91.
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  29. Per Bjørnar Grande (2016). Desire in Madame Bovary. Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture 23 (1):75-97.
    In Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque, René Girard attempts to explain how desire has been depicted in different European novels. According to Girard, the lesser novelists have retracted to some kind of romantic worldview in their description of human relationships. While the “romantic writer” does not see that desires are mediated by other people’s desires, and instead describes desire as object-related, linear, and devoid of any ongoing mimetic contagion, a number of novelists, are, nonetheless, able to reveal the illusion of (...)
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  30. Grindell Nicholas (ed.) (2014). Desire After Affect. Rowman & Littlefield International.
    Desire After Affect offers a detailed analysis of the affective turn and its consequences for the humanities.
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  31. Lahcen Haddad (1993). Narrative, Desire and Historicity. Dissertation, Indiana University
    The dissertation deals with the possibility of historicizing the fundamental connection between narrative and desire. Using Lacanian psychoanalysis both as a methodological tool and an object of study--along with other post-modern theories of culture--I have provided a topography of the theoretical ramifications of desire and narrative. I have then outlined a theory of historicized narrative desire which looks at both notions in terms of how they modify and inform different cultural products. ;My premise is that, as a linear form, narrative (...)
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  32. Tracey D. Hagan (1991). Drawn by Desire. Semiotics:86-94.
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  33. Stuart Hampshire (2015). Chapter 2. DESIRE. In Freedom of the Individual. Princeton University Press. pp. 34-52.
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  34. Philip Harold (2010). The Desire for Social Unity. Philosophy Today 54 (3):247-264.
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  35. Edwin Hartman (1996). Choosing One's Desires. The Ruffin Series in Business Ethics:134-135.
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  36. Lars Hertzberg (1995). On Being Moved by Desire. Philosophical Investigations 18 (3):250-263.
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  37. Frank Hofmann, Besires and the Weakness of Will Argument.
    Can there be a state which is both a belief and a desire? More exactly, a state which is a belief that p and a desire that q, where p and q may be the same proposition or a different one? Such a state would be a ‘besire’. So a first question is the general question whether besires are possible. Normative attitudes would be good candidates for besires. For example, if Sandra has the normative attitude that it would be best (...)
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  38. Brad Hooker (1991). Mark Overvold's Contribution to Philosophy. Journal of Philosophical Research 16:333-344.
    The prevailing theory of self-interest (personal utility or individual welfare) holds that one’s Iife goes well to the extent that one’s desires are fulfilled. In a couple of seminal papers, Overvold raised a devastating objection to this theory---namely that the theory (added to commonsensical beliefs about the nature of action) makes self-sacrifice logically impossible. He then proposed an appealing revision of the prevailing theory, one which provided adequate logical space for self-sacrifice. And he analyzed his revised theory’s implications for the (...)
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  39. R. B. K. Howe (1994). A Social-Cognitive Theory of Desire. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 24 (1):1–23.
    An examination of our preconceptions about desire, together with a comparison of these with the available empirical evidence, leads to a theory in which desire is characterized as a cognitive phenomenon which is heavily influenced by social learning. Following an introductory outline, the second section clarifies what exactly is at issue in attempting to reduce conation to cognition. Section 3 assesses the conditions required for knowledge of our own desires, and this concern is extended in 4 to an appraisal of (...)
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  40. Paul Hurley (2002). A Davidsonian Reconciliation of Internalism, Objectivity, and the Belief-Desire Theory. Journal of Ethics 6 (1):1-20.
    This paper argues that Donald Davidson''s account ofassertions of evaluative judgments contains ahere-to-fore unappreciated strategy forreconciling the meta-ethical ``inconsistenttriad.'''' The inconsistency is thought to resultbecause within the framework of thebelief-desire theory assertions of moraljudgments must have conceptual connections withboth desires and beliefs. The connection withdesires is necessary to account for theinternal connection between such judgments andmotivation to act, while the connection withbeliefs is necessary to account for theapparent objectivity of such judgments.Arguments abound that no class of utterancescan coherently be understood (...)
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  41. Paul Edward Hurley (1988). The Practical Given. Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh
    I demonstrate that the two major ethical traditions agree that there are given desires which provide extra-rational practical reasons. Empiricist theories ground ethics in such desires, but the extra-rationality of this foundation appears to lead to stultifying subjectivism. Rationalist theories justify the appeal to an independent Kantian Reason as necessary to gain control over such desires. But the status of these desires as providing motivating reasons guarantees that such independent Reason can never be more than one among competing sources of (...)
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  42. Francis W. Irwin (1961). On Desire, Aversion, and the Affective Zero. Psychological Review 68 (5):293-300.
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  43. J. Deonna & F. Lauria (eds.) (forthcoming). The Nature of Desire. Oxford University Press.
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  44. Gary E. Jones (1981). Rights and Desires. Ethics 92 (1):52-56.
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  45. Leonard D. Katz (2005). Review of Timothy Schroeder, Three Faces of Desire. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2005 (9).
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  46. J. S. King (1932). Life's Desire. New Blackfriars 13 (153):788-788.
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  47. Dahlian Kirby (1994). Forms of Desire. Philosophy Now 10:43-44.
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  48. Pierre Klossowski (1997). La Monnaie Vivante. Rivages.
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  49. Norman Kretzmann (1958). Desire as Proof of Desirability. Philosophical Quarterly 8 (32):246-258.
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  50. J. Laird (1912). BLIGH, S. M. -The Desire for Qualities. [REVIEW] Mind 21:274.
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