Edited by Neil Sinhababu (National University of Singapore)
About this topic
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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  1. The Enigma of Desire: Sex, Longing, and Belonging in Psychoanalysis.Galit Atlas - 2015 - 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 (...)
  2. When Jack Blinks: Siting Gay Desire in Ann Bannon's "Beebo Brinker".Michèle Aina Barale - 1992 - Feminist Studies 18 (3):533.
  3. Wanting to Want.A. C. W. Bethel - 1980 - 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 (...)
  4. The Practices of the Self.Sharon Bowman (ed.) - 2010 - 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 (...)
  5. The Extinction of Desire: A Tale of Enlightenment.Michael Boylan - 2010 - 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 (...)
  6. The Extinction of Desire: A Tale of Enlightenment.Michael Boylan - 2009 - 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 (...)
  7. The Extinction of Desire: A Tale of Enlightenment.Michael Boylan - 2007 - 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 (...)
  8. Prosaic Desires.Robert Brown - 2010 - Journal of Philosophy: A Cross-Disciplinary Inquiry 6 (13):66-67.
  9. On Life and Desire: Kant, Lewontin, and Girard.Paul W. Bruno - 2013 - In S. Campbell & P. Bruno (eds.), The Science, Politics, and Ontology of Life-Philosophy. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 223.
  10. Why Science and Belief-Desire Explanation Do Not Overlap.N. Chater & M. Pickering - 2004 - Facta Philosophica 5:335-353.
  11. Objects of Desire: The Madonnas of Modernism. By Beryl Schlossman.G. Clark - 2003 - The European Legacy 8 (6):808-809.
  12. Self and Desire as Seeds of Virtue.Paul Condon, John Dunne, Christine Wilson-Mendenhall, Wendy Hasenkamp, Karen Quigley & Lisa Barrett - unknown
    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 (...)
  13. Wanting Nothing: Imitation and Production in the Economy of Desire.John Daniels - 2009 - New Blackfriars 90 (1025):90-107.
  14. Desires We Live By.Miguel de Beistegui - unknown
    Miguel de Beistegui on the changing role of desire.
  15. Varieties of Desire.N. J. H. Dent & John Benson - 1976 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 50 (1):153 - 192.
  16. Review: From Desire to Power. [REVIEW]Rosalyn Diprose - 1999 - Human Studies 22 (1):125 - 131.
  17. Das Interesse der Vernunft und die Frage nach dem guten Leben.Jörg Disse - 2013 - 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 (...)
  18. Menschliche Psyche und Gottesverhältnis: Kierkegaard versus Freud.Jörg Disse - 2003 - Theologie Und Philosophie 78 (4).
    Compares Freud's conception of religion being negative for the health of our psyche to Kierkegaard's theory of stages culminating in the necessity of a relationship to God for self-realization.
  19. Actions Speak Louder Than Words.Austin Duncan-Jones - 1960 - Philosophy 35 (135):306 - 313.
    Beliefs and desires are linked with one another by an obvious kind of duality. Everyone assumes that a person's beliefs may be, to some extent, ascertained by seeing how he acts: for we suppose that he will do the things which he believes will fulfil his wishes, and avoid doing what he thinks will frustrate them. Similarly, his desires may, to some extent, be ascertained by seeing how he acts; for if we know what he thinks about the results of (...)
  20. Philosophy and the Natural Desire for God.Louis Dupré - 2000 - International Philosophical Quarterly 40 (2):141-148.
  21. Desire and Belief: Introduction to Some Philosophical Debates.Arthur Falk - 2004 - 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 (...)
  22. Desires Aren't So Bad.Andy Foeller - unknown - Proceedings of the Heraclitean Society 18.
  23. The Desire Theory and Metaethics.Richard Francis Foley - 1975 - Dissertation, Brown University
  24. Ni K Makarma: How Desireless Need One Be?Christopher Framarin - 2004 - 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 (...)
  25. Motivation in the Nyāyasūtra and Brahmasiddhi.Christopher G. Framarin - 2008 - 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 (...)
  26. Unselfishness.Christopher G. Framarin - 2008 - International Philosophical Quarterly 48 (1):69-83.
    In this paper I argue that the prohibition on desire in the orthodox Indian systems is not simply a prohibition on selfish desires. The word “selfish” is ambiguous. It can mean either “self-interested” or “excessively self-interested.” Since only excessively self-interested actions are prohibited, the prohibition on desire cannot be a prohibition on all self-interested desires. But the prohibition on desire cannot be a prohibition on excessively self-interested desires either, because this class of desires is too insignificant to explain the general (...)
  27. The Alluringness of Desire.Daniel Friedrich - 2012 - 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 (...)
  28. Three Faces of Desire.Rick Anthony Furtak - 2006 - Review of Metaphysics 59 (3):680-682.
  29. Boys' Vocational Desires.G. R. Giles - 1929 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 7 (3):212 – 218.
  30. Can a Desire Be a Cause?Bruce Goldberg - 1965 - Analysis 25 (3):70 - 72.
  31. Desires and Reasons.Alan Goldman - 2009 - 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 (...)
  32. What Desires Are, and Are Not.Alan H. Goldman - 2017 - 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 (...)
  33. Desire Based Reasons and Reasons for Desires.Alan H. Goldman - 2006 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 44 (3):469-488.
  34. Appendix 2: ‘Desire’.Daniel Goldstick - 2009 - In Reason, Truth and Reality. University of Toronto Press. pp. 327-332.
  35. Desire in Language.Lane Gormley - 1984 - International Studies in Philosophy 16 (3):90-91.
  36. Desire in Madame Bovary.Per Bjørnar Grande - 2016 - Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture 23:75-97.
    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 (...)
  37. Desire After Affect.Nicholas Grindell (ed.) - 2014 - Rowman & Littlefield International.
    Desire After Affect offers a detailed analysis of the affective turn and its consequences for the humanities.
  38. Narrative, Desire and Historicity.Lahcen Haddad - 1993 - 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 (...)
  39. Drawn by Desire.Tracey D. Hagan - 1991 - Semiotics:86-94.
  40. Desire Beyond Belief.Alan Hájek & Philip Pettit - 2004 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82 (1):77-92.
    David Lewis [1988; 1996] canvases an anti-Humean thesis about mental states: that the rational agent desires something to the extent that he or she believes it to be good. Lewis offers and refutes a decision-theoretic formulation of it, the `Desire-as- Belief Thesis'. Other authors have since added further negative results in the spirit of Lewis's. We explore ways of being anti-Humean that evade all these negative results. We begin by providing background on evidential decision theory and on Lewis's negative results. (...)
  41. Chapter 2. DESIRE.Stuart Hampshire - 2015 - In Freedom of the Individual. Princeton University Press. pp. 34-52.
  42. The Fate of Desire.James S. Hans - 1990 - State University of New York Press.
    The Fate of Desire examines the problems of living in a decentered world. Assuming that the poststructuralist declaration of the end of man is an essential aspect of our current ways of thinking, the book focuses on the positive values inherent in this shift. In substituting multiplicity and fields of play for identity and hierarchy, and in distinguishing between desire as fullness and desire as lack, Hans argues for a vision of existence that is based on the difficulties Nietzsche posited (...)
  43. The Desire for Social Unity.Philip Harold - 2010 - Philosophy Today 54 (3):247-264.
  44. Comparing Beliefs and Desires.P. L. Harris - 1996 - In Peter Carruthers & Peter K. Smith (eds.), Theories of Theories of Mind. Cambridge University Press.
  45. Choosing One's Desires.Edwin Hartman - 1996 - The Ruffin Series in Business Ethics:134-135.
  46. On Being Moved by Desire.Lars Hertzberg - 1995 - Philosophical Investigations 18 (3):250-263.
  47. Besires and the Weakness of Will Argument.Frank Hofmann - manuscript
    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 (...)
  48. Mark Overvold's Contribution to Philosophy.Brad Hooker - 1991 - 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 (...)
  49. A Social-Cognitive Theory of Desire.R. B. K. Howe - 1994 - 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 (...)
  50. A Davidsonian Reconciliation of Internalism, Objectivity, and the Belief-Desire Theory.Paul Hurley - 2002 - The 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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