About this topic
Summary The central question about desire and reason concerns the extent to which our reasons to act depend on our desires. According to ‘desire-based’ or ‘Humean’ theories of reasons, all of our reasons to act depend on our desires. On a simple version of such a theory, we have reason to do only what would serve one of our present desires. Many philosophers have found such theories attractive, insofar as they connect our reasons with our motivations, or insofar as they seem to make metaphysical and epistemological questions about reasons more tractable. But many other philosophers have found such theories unattractive, often on the grounds that they seem to threaten the rational authority of morality.
Key works A great deal of the recent literature has focused on Bernard Williams’ defence of his ‘internal reasons’ theory, a version of the desire-based theory, in his Williams 1979. Some central contributions to the literature on Williams’ view are Korsgaard 1986McDowell 1995, and Parfit 1997. There is also a lot of recent literature arguing against desire-based theories of reasons. See, for instance, Darwall 1983, Korsgaard 1997, Nagel 1970Scanlon 1998Parfit 2011. For a recent defence of a desire-based theory, see Schroeder 2007.
Introductions Finlay & Schroeder 2008Wiland 2012: ch.2
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  1. added 2018-10-16
    La lingua del fuori senso. [REVIEW]Fabio Vergine - 2015 - Il Lavoro Culturale 1.
    Discussione sul testo "Legge, desiderio, capitalismo. L'anti-Edipo tra Lacan e Deleuze" per "Il Lavoro culturale/ISSN 2384-9274".
  2. added 2018-09-17
    Humean Nature: How Desire Explains Action, Thought, and Feeling, by Neil Sinhababu.Karl Schafer - 2018 - Mind 127 (507):919-928.
    Humean Nature: How Desire Explains Action, Thought, and Feeling, by Neil Sinhababu. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. ix + 224.
  3. added 2018-08-26
    How Do You Like Me Now?Gerald Hull - manuscript
    These reflections are an attempt to get to the heart of the "reason is the slave of the passions" debate. The whole point of deliberation is to arrive at a choice. What factors persons find to be choice-relevant is a purely empirical matter. This has significant consequences for the views of Hume, Williams, Nagel, Parfit and Korsgaard regarding practical reason.
  4. added 2018-08-02
    Moralische Motivation. Kant Und Die Alternativen.Heiner F. Klemme, Manfred Kuehn & Dieter Schönecker (eds.) - 2006 - Meiner Verlag.
    Kant und die Alternativen Heiner F. Klemme Manfred Kühn, Dieter Schönecker. H . Klemme / M. Kühn / D. Schönecker (Hg.) Moralische Motivation Kant und die Alternativen Meiner KANT-FORSCHUNGEN Begründet von Reinhard Brandt und ...
  5. added 2018-08-01
    Practical Reason, Sympathy and Reactive Attitudes.Max Khan Hayward - 2017 - Noûs.
    This paper has three aims. First, I defend, in its most radical form, Hume's scepticism about practical reason, as it applies to purely self-regarding matters. It's not always irrational to discount the future, to be inconstant in one's preferences, to have incompatible desires, to not pursue the means to one's ends, or to fail to maximize one's own good. Second, I explain how our response to the “irrational” agent should be understood as an expression of frustrated sympathy, in Adam Smith's (...)
  6. added 2018-07-30
    Towards an Ecumenical Theory of Normative Reasons.Caj Sixten Strandberg - 2018 - Dialectica 72 (1):69-100.
    A theory of normative reasons for action faces the fundamental challenge of accounting for the dual nature of reasons. On the one hand, some reasons appear to depend on, and vary with, desires. On the other hand, some reasons appear categorical in the sense of being desire‐independent. However, it has turned out to be difficult to provide a theory that accommodates both these aspects. Internalism is able to account for the former aspect, but has difficulties to account for the latter, (...)
  7. added 2018-05-15
    Hume, Passion, and Action.Elizabeth S. Radcliffe - 2018 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    David Hume’s theory of action is well known for several provocative theses, including that passion and reason cannot be opposed over the direction of action. In Hume, Passion, and Action, the author defends an original interpretation of Hume’s views on passion, reason and motivation that is consistent with other theses in Hume’s philosophy, loyal to his texts, and historically situated. This book challenges the now orthodox interpretation of Hume on motivation, presenting an alternative that situates Hume closer to “Humeans” than (...)
  8. added 2018-05-08
    Affective Experience, Desire, and Reasons for Action.Declan Smithies & Jeremy Weiss - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy.
    What is the role of affective experience in explaining how our desires provide us with reasons for action? When we desire that p, we are thereby disposed to feel attracted to the prospect that p, or to feel averse to the prospect that not-p. In this paper, we argue that affective experiences – including feelings of attraction and aversion – provide us with reasons for action in virtue of their phenomenal character. Moreover, we argue that desires provide us with reasons (...)
  9. added 2018-02-18
    Désir (Avancé).Federico Lauria - 2017 - Encyclopédie Philosophique.
    Les désirs sont centraux pour agir et être heureux. Qu’est-ce qu’un désir ? En quoi les désirs sont-ils importants ? Dans cette entrée, nous tenterons de mettre les mots sur cette expérience si familière et pourtant négligée par la philosophie contemporaine. (1) En guise de préliminaires, nous délimiterons notre objet d’étude à la lumière des principales distinctions entre les désirs et d’autres états mentaux tels que les croyances et intentions, ainsi qu’à l’aide des distinctions classiques parmi les désirs. (2) Notre (...)
  10. added 2018-02-17
    Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Volume 2.Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.) - 2007 - Oxford University Press UK.
  11. added 2018-02-17
    Hume, Reason and Morality: A Legacy of Contradiction.Sophie Botros - 2006 - Routledge.
    Covering an important theme in Humean studies, this book focuses on Hume's hugely influential attempt in book three of his _Treatise of Human Nature _to derive the conclusion that morality is a matter of feeling, not reason, from its link with action. Claiming that Hume's argument contains a fundamental contradiction that has gone unnoticed in modern debate, this fascinating volume contains a refreshing combination of historical-scholarly work and contemporary analysis that seeks to expose this contradiction and therefore provide a significant (...)
  12. added 2018-02-17
    Desires, Whims and Values.Donald C. Hubin - 2003 - The Journal of Ethics 7 (3):315-335.
    Neo-Humean instrumentalists hold that an agent's reasons for acting are grounded in the agent's desires. Numerous objections have been leveled against this view, but the most compelling concerns the problem of "alien desires" - desires with which the agent does not identify. The standard version of neo-Humeanism holds that these desires, like any others, generate reasons for acting. A variant of neo-Humeanism that grounds an agent's reasons on her values, rather than all of her desires, avoids this implication, but at (...)
  13. added 2018-01-24
    Review of Elijah Milgram Practical Induction. [REVIEW]Sarah Buss - 1999 - Philosophical Review 108 (4):571.
  14. added 2018-01-12
    Eliminating Prudential Reasons.Alex Worsnip - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics 8.
    I argue, contrary to the consensus of most contemporary work in ethics, that there are no (fundamentally, distinctively) prudential reasons for action. That is to say: there is no class of reasons for action that is distinctively and fundamentally about the promotion of the agent’s own well-being. Considerations to do with the agent’s well-being can supply the agent with reasons only in virtue of her well-being mattering morally or in virtue of her caring about her own well-being. In both of (...)
  15. added 2018-01-11
    Promotion as Contrastive Increase in Expected Fit.Nathaniel Sharadin & Finnur Dellsén - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-28.
    What is required for an action to promote the satisfaction of a desire? We reject extant answers and propose an alternative. Our account differs from competing answers in two ways: first, it is contrastive, in that actions promote the satisfaction of desires only as contrasted with other possible actions. Second, it employs a notion of expected fit between desire and world, defined as the weighted sum of the fit between the desire and the world in all possible outcomes, where each (...)
  16. added 2017-11-08
    Intentions and Intentionality.Matteo Bianchin - 2015 - Philosophy and Public Issues - Filosofia E Questioni Pubbliche:43-54.
    Michael Thompson recently advanced a “naïve action theory” as an alternative to the “sophisticated” accounts of action displayed by ordinary folk psychology. In what follows I defend the plausibility of intentional psychology and folk psychological explanations. I do this in two ways. First I question that naïve explanations are more naïve than the ones provided by folk psychology and suggest that the latter are phenomenologically prior to the former. Second, I focus on the role of intentionality in deliberation and action (...)
  17. added 2017-11-07
    A New Theory of Humean Reasons? A Critical Note on Schroeder's Hypotheticalism.Matthew Bedke - 2008 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (3):1-5.
  18. added 2017-11-03
    Under the Guise of the Good: Kant and a Tenet of Moral Rationalism.Stefano Bacin - forthcoming - In Violetta Waibel & Margit Ruffing (eds.), Natur und Freiheit: Akten des XII. Internationalen Kant-Kongresses. de Gruyter.
  19. added 2017-11-03
    The Verdictive Organization of Desire.Derek Clayton Baker - 2017 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 47 (5):589-612.
    Deliberation often begins with the question ‘What do I want to do?’ rather than the question of what one ought to do. This paper takes that question at face value, as a question about which of one’s desires is strongest, which sometimes guides action. The paper aims to explain which properties of a desire make that desire strong, in the sense of ‘strength’ relevant to this deliberative question. Both motivational force and phenomenological intensity seem relevant to a desire’s strength; however, (...)
  20. added 2017-10-31
    The Scope of Motivation and the Basis of Practical Reason.Robert Audi - 1999 - Philosophic Exchange 29 (1).
    This paper explores the relationship between motivation, desire, pleasure and value. I argue that the motivational grounds of action are the kinds of desires that tend, in rational persons, to be produced both by experience of the good, and by beliefs that something one can do would be good.
  21. added 2017-10-30
    The Thief of Time: Philosophical Essays on Procrastination.Chrisoula Andreou & Mark D. White (eds.) - 2010 - Oxford University Press.
  22. added 2017-10-08
    Intelligibility and the Guise of the Good.Paul Boswell - 2018 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 13 (1):1-31.
    According to the Guise of the Good, an agent only does for a reason what she sees as good. One of the main motivations for the view is its apparent ability to explain why action for a reason must be intelligible to its agent, for on this view, an action is intelligible just in case it seems good. This motivation has come under criticism in recent years. Most notably, Kieran Setiya has argued that merely seeing one’s action as good does (...)
  23. added 2017-09-04
    Self‐Knowledge and the Guise of the Good.Amir Saemi - 2017 - Analytic Philosophy 58 (3):272-281.
    According to the Doctrine of the Guise of the Good, actions are taken to be good by their agents. Kieran Setiya, however, has formulated a new objection to the DGG based on the distinction between the notions of normative reasons and motivating reasons. Only the latter, Setiya claims, is required for intentional agency. However, I will argue that Setiya’s objection fails because it rests on the implausible assumption that motivating reasons are determined solely in terms of the content of the (...)
  24. added 2017-06-25
    Circularity, Naturalism, and Desire-Based Reasons.Attila Tanyi - 2017 - Res Philosophica 94 (4):451-470.
    In this paper, I propose a critique of the naturalist version of the Desire-Based Reasons Model. I first set the scene by spelling out the connection between naturalism and the Model. After this, I introduce Christine Korsgaard’s circularity argument against what she calls the instrumental principle. Since Korsgaard’s targets, officially, were non-naturalist advocates of the principle, I show why and how the circularity charge can be extended to cover the naturalist Model. Once this is done, I go on to investigate (...)
  25. added 2017-05-10
    Introduction. Reconsidering Some Dogmas About Desire.Federico Lauria & Julien Deonna - 2017 - In Federico Lauria & Julien Deonna (eds.), The Nature of Desire. New York: Oxford University Press.
    Desire has not been at the center of recent preoccupations in the philosophy of mind. Consequently, the literature settled into several dogmas. The first part of this introduction presents these dogmas and invites readers to scrutinize them. The main dogma is that desires are motivational states. This approach contrasts with the other dominant conception: desires are positive evaluations. But there are at least four other dogmas: the world should conform to our desires (world-to-mind direction of fit), desires involve a positive (...)
  26. added 2017-04-26
    Humean Nature.Neil Sinhababu - 2017 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    This book defends the Humean Theory of Motivation, according to which desire drives all action and practical reasoning. -/- Desire motivates us to pursue its object. It makes thoughts of its object pleasant. It focuses attention on its object. Its effects are amplified by vivid representations of its object. These aspects of desire explain why motivation usually accompanies moral belief, how intentions shape our plans, how we exercise willpower, what human selves are, how action can express emotion, why we procrastinate, (...)
  27. added 2017-03-01
    A Puzzle About Reasons and Rationality.Caj Strandberg - 2017 - The Journal of Ethics 21 (1):63-88.
    According to a guiding idea in metaethics, there is a necessary link between the concept of normative reasons and the concept of practical rationality. This notion brings up two issues: The exact nature of this link, and the nature of rationality. With regard to the first issue, the debate is dominated by a certain standard claim. With regard to the second issue, the debate is dominated by what I will refer to as ‘subjectivism’ and ‘objectivism’ about rationality, where the latter (...)
  28. added 2017-03-01
    Ambivalence: A Philosophical Exploration.Hili Razinsky - 2016 - Rowman & Littlefield International.
    Ambivalence (as in practical conflicts, moral dilemmas, conflicting beliefs, and mixed feelings) is a central phenomenon of human life. Yet ambivalence is incompatible with entrenched philosophical conceptions of personhood, judgement, and action, and is denied or marginalised by thinkers of diverse concerns. This book takes a radical new stance, bringing the study of core philosophical issues together with that of ambivalence. The book proposes new accounts in several areas – including subjectivity, consciousness, rationality, and value – while elucidating a wide (...)
  29. added 2017-02-11
    Permanences : la frontière En guise d'introduction.Michel de Certeau & Maria Letizia Cravetto - 1999 - Rue Descartes 25:7-19.
  30. added 2017-02-01
    Whether Any Individual at All Could Have a Guise Structure.Barry Miller - 1991 - Philosophical Studies 61 (3):285 - 293.
  31. added 2017-01-30
    Hard Atheism and the Ethics of Desire: An Alternative to Morality.Marks Joel - 2016 - New York, USA: Palgrave Macmillan.
    This book challenges the widespread assumption that the ethical life and society must be moral in any objective sense. In his previous works, Marks has rejected both the existence of such a morality and the need to maintain verbal, attitudinal, practical, and institutional remnants of belief in it. This book develops these ideas further, with emphasis on constructing a positive alternative. Calling it “desirism”, Marks illustrates what life and the world would be like if we lived in accordance with our (...)
  32. added 2017-01-27
    A Hegelian Critique of Desire-Based Reasons.Kate Padgett Walsh - 2013 - Idealistic Studies 43 (3):171-184.
    This paper approaches Humean accounts of desire from a perspective relatively unexplored in contemporary moral theory, namely Hegel’s ethical thought. I contend that Hegel’s treatment of desire is, ultimately, somewhat more Humean than Hegel himself recognized. But Hegel also goes further than contemporary Humeans in recognizing the sociality of the normative domain, and this difference has important implications for the Humean thesis of desire-based reasons. I develop a Hegelian critique of DBR and conclude by outlining a distinctively Hegelian approach to (...)
  33. added 2017-01-23
    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 (...)
  34. added 2017-01-21
    Desire Based Reasons and Reasons for Desires.Alan H. Goldman - 2006 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 44 (3):469-488.
  35. added 2017-01-17
    Do Desires Provide Reasons? An Argument Against the Cognitivist Strategy.Avery Archer - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (8):2011-2027.
    According to the cognitivist strategy, the desire to bring about P provides reasons for intending to bring about P in a way analogous to how perceiving that P provides reasons for believing that P. However, while perceiving P provides reasons for believing P by representing P as true, desiring to bring about P provides reasons for intending to bring about P by representing P as good. This paper offers an argument against this view. My argument proceeds via an appeal to (...)
  36. added 2017-01-06
    FIVE STEPS TO RESPONSIBILITY.Lisanyuk Elena - 2013 - Revista da Faculdade de Direito da UFMG 63:125-149.
    Responsibility has entered the academic discourse of logicians hardly more than few decades ago. I suggest a logical concept of responsibility which employs ideas both from a number of theories belonging to different branches of logic as well from other academic areas. As a comment to this concept, I suggest five steps narrative scenario in order to show how the logical dimension of responsibility emerges from diverse tendencies in logic and other sciences. Here are the five steps briefly stated: Step (...)
  37. added 2016-12-08
    The Teleological Conception of Practical Reasons.D. W. Portmore - 2011 - Mind 120 (477):117-153.
    It is through our actions that we affect the way the world goes. Whenever we face a choice of what to do, we also face a choice of which of various possible worlds to actualize. Moreover, whenever we act intentionally, we act with the aim of making the world go a certain way. It is only natural, then, to suppose that an agent's reasons for action are a function of her reasons for preferring some of these possible worlds to others, (...)
  38. added 2016-12-08
    The Humean Theory of Motivation Reformulated and Defended.Neil Sinhababu - 2009 - Philosophical Review 118 (4):465-500.
    This essay defends a strong version of the Humean theory of motivation on which desire is necessary both for motivation and for reasoning that changes our desires. Those who hold that moral judgments are beliefs with intrinsic motivational force need to oppose this view, and many of them have proposed counterexamples to it. Using a novel account of desire, this essay handles the proposed counterexamples in a way that shows the superiority of the Humean theory. The essay addresses the classic (...)
  39. added 2016-12-08
    "I'll Be Glad I Did It" Reasoning and the Significance of Future Desires.Elizabeth Harman - 2009 - In John Hawthorne (ed.), Ethics. Wiley Periodicals. pp. 177-199.
    We use “I’ll be glad I did it” reasoning all the time. For example, last night I was trying to decide whether to work on this paper or go out to a movie. I realized that if I worked on the paper, then today I would be glad I did it. Whereas, if I went out to the movie, today I would regret it. This enabled me to see that I should work on the paper rather than going out to (...)
  40. added 2016-12-08
    Reasons From Within: Desires and Values.Alan H. Goldman - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
    Alan H. Goldman argues for the internalist or subjectivist view of practical reasons on the grounds that it is simpler, more unified, and more comprehensible ...
  41. added 2016-12-08
    The Structure of Instrumental Practical Reasoning.Christian Miller - 2007 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75 (1):1–40.
    The view to be defended in this paper is intended to be a novel and compelling model of instrumental practical reasoning, reasoning aimed at determining how to act in order to achieve a given end in a certain set of circumstances. On standard views of instrumental reasoning, the end in question is the object of a particular desire that the agent has, a desire which, when combined with the agent’s beliefs about what means are available to him or her in (...)
  42. added 2016-12-08
    Realism, Rational Action, and the Humean Theory of Motivation.Melissa Barry - 2007 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (3):231-242.
    Realists about practical reasons agree that judgments regarding reasons are beliefs. They disagree, however, over the question of how such beliefs motivate rational action. Some adopt a Humean conception of motivation, according to which beliefs about reasons must combine with independently existing desires in order to motivate rational action; others adopt an anti-Humean view, according to which beliefs can motivate rational action in their own right, either directly or by giving rise to a new desire that in turn motivates the (...)
  43. added 2016-12-08
    Aristotle, Akrasia, and the Place of Desire in Moral Reasoning.Byron J. Stoyles - 2007 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (2):195-207.
    This paper serves both as a discussion of Henry’s (Ethical Theory Moral Practice, 5:255–270, 2002) interpretation of Aristotle on the possibility of akrasia – knowing something is wrong and doing it anyway – and an indication of the importance of desire in Aristotle’s account of moral reasoning. As I will explain, Henry’s interpretation is advantageous for the reason that it makes clear how Aristotle could have made good sense of genuine akrasia, a phenomenon that we seem to observe in the (...)
  44. added 2016-12-08
    Essays on Actions and Events: Philosphical Essays, Volume 1.Donald Davidson - 2001 - Oxford University Press UK.
    Review from other book by this author `...these intriguing views are ingeniously argued and fruitfully provocative.' Philosophy. 'Review from previous edition 'it must be said that this is one of the most impressive works of analytical philosophy to appear for a good many years.' -Peter Strawson, Times Literary Supplement 'Review from previous edition 'it must be said that this is one of the most impressive works of analytical philosophy to appear for a good many years... The positions adopted are argued (...)
  45. added 2016-12-08
    Humean Motivation and Humean Rationality.Mark Van Roojen - 1995 - Philosophical Studies 79 (1):37-57.
    Michael Smith's recent defence of the theory shows promise, in that it captures the most common reasons for accepting a Humean view. But, as I will argue, it falls short of vindicating the view. Smith's argument fails, because it ignores the role of rationality conditions on the ascription of motivating reason explanations. Because of these conditions, we must have a theory of rationality before we choose a theory of motivation. Thus, we cannot use Humean restrictions on motivation to argue for (...)
  46. added 2016-12-05
    How to Argue About Practical Reason.R. Jay Wallace - 1990 - Mind 99 (395):355-385.
    How to Argue about . Bibliographic Info. Citation. How to Argue about ; Author(s): R. Jay Wallace; Source: Mind , New Series, Vol.
  47. added 2016-11-21
    Are There Extrinsic Desires?David K. Chan - 2004 - Noûs 38 (2):326-50.
    An extrinsic desire is defined as a desire for something, not for its own sake, but for its supposed propensity to secure something else that one desires. I argue that the notion of ‘extrinsic desire’ is theoretically redundant. I begin by defining desire as a propositional attitude with a desirability characterization. The roles of desire and intention in practical reasoning are distinguished. I show that extrinsic desire does not have its own motivational role. I also show that extrinsic desire is (...)
  48. added 2016-10-27
    Bernard Williams.Mark P. Jenkins - 2006 - Routledge.
    From his earliest work on personal identity to his last on the value of truthfulness, the ideas and arguments of Bernard Williams - in the metaphysics of personhood, in the history of philosophy, but especially in ethics and moral psychology - have proved sometimes controversial, often influential, and always worth studying. This book provides a comprehensive account of Williams's many significant contributions to contemporary philosophy. Topics include personal identity, various critiques of moral theory, practical reasoning and moral motivation, truth and (...)
  49. added 2016-09-23
    Silent Prudence.Donald W. Bruckner - 2009 - Philosophical Explorations 12 (3):349-364.
    It is commonly recognized that not all actions are candidates for moral evaluation. For instance, morality is silent on the issue whether to tie one's right shoe before one's left shoe or the other way around. This shoe-tying action is not a candidate for moral appraisal. The matter is amoral, for neither alternative is morally required nor forbidden, and both are permissible. It is not commonly recognized that not all actions are candidates for prudential evaluation. I shall argue, however, that (...)
  50. added 2016-09-23
    In Defense of Adaptive Preferences.Donald W. Bruckner - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 142 (3):307 - 324.
    An adaptive preference is a preference that is regimented in response to an agent’s set of feasible options. The fabled fox in the sour grapes story undergoes an adaptive preference change. I consider adaptive preferences more broadly, to include adaptive preference formation as well. I argue that many adaptive preferences that other philosophers have cast out as irrational sour-grapes-like preferences are actually fully rational preferences worthy of pursuit. I offer a means of distinguishing rational and worthy adaptive preferences from irrational (...)
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