Edited by Joshua May (University of Alabama, Birmingham)
About this topic
Summary Philosophers often treat motivation in connection with desire, given that they often use the term "desire" to refer to mental states that are in essence motivational. This does not necessarily lead to the theory that we are all ultimately self-interested (psychological egoism), since our ultimate desires could concern the welfare of others. And some believe motivation can be generated by states other than desire, such as belief, imagination, or intentions. Still, many share the view often labelled psychologism: motivation, even acting on reasons, must involve psychological states of some sort or other. After all, how could the fact that there is salmon on the table motivate me to consume it unless I at least believe this and want some salmon? Not everyone buys into a tight connection between mental states and motivation, however. Some seek to make an exception at least for rational action, which not all animals can exhibit. Proponents of anti-psychologism maintain that we don't need mental states at all in the causation and explanation of rational action. When we act on good reasons, for example, perhaps we can be motivated by something like the contents of those states---the propositions believed or desired.  Settling this dispute doesn't exhaust the philosophical issues surrounding motivation, but they are largely taken up in other categories.
Key works Davidson 1963 and Smith 1987 are contemporary and already classic pieces connecting motivation and desire, though couched in terms of reasons. They build on ideas in Anscombe 1957 (see her shopping list example, section 32). Anti-psychologism has clearly and explicitly been defended by Dancy (19952000).
Introductions Ch. 1 of Mele 2003 provides a comprehensive introduction to motivation, along with a useful glossary of terms (or see Mele 1995). The entries by Schroeder 2009 and Pettit 1998 cover desire, but they are useful introductions to motivation. Lenman 2010 (esp. sects. 5-6) discusses psychologism and related views.
Related categories

169 found
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  1. added 2018-11-06
    Motivational Ties.Alfred R. Mele - 1991 - Journal of Philosophical Research 16:431-442.
    Must a rational ass equidistant from two equally attractive bales of hay starve for lack of a reason to prefer one bale to the other? Must a human being faced with a comparable, explicitly motivational, tie fail to pursue either option? Surely, one suspects, some practical resolution is possible. Surely, ties of either sort need not result in death or paralysis. But why? Donald Davidson has suggested that, in the human case, resolution depends upon the tie’s being broken---upon the agent’s (...)
  2. added 2018-11-05
    Review of Motivation and Agency. [REVIEW]Randolph Clarke - 2004 - Mind 113 (451):565-568.
  3. added 2018-10-09
    Philosophy of Action From Suarez to Davidson.Constantine Sandis (ed.) - forthcoming
  4. added 2018-10-08
    Acting on a Ground : Reasons, Rational Motivation, and Explanation.Magnus Frei - 2016 - Dissertation, Fribourg
    When someone does something for a reason, what are the reasons for which she does what she does? What is her ‘motivating reason’, as it is sometimes put? The simple answer is: it depends on what is meant by ‘motivating reason’. Non-Psychologists hold that motivating reasons are what the agent believes. I have shown that given that we understand ‘motivating reasons’ as what I term 'grounds', this is quite correct, as what we believe is what plays the role of a (...)
  5. added 2018-10-01
    Vivid Representations and Their Effects.Kengo Miyazono - 2018 - Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia 9 (1):73-80.
    : Sinhababu’s Humean Nature contains many interesting and important ideas, but in this short commentary I focus on the idea of vivid representations. Sinhababu inherits his idea of vivid representations from Hume’s discussions, in particular his discussion of calm and violent passions. I am sympathetic to the idea of developing Hume’s insight that has been largely neglected by philosophers. I believe that Sinhababu and Hume are on the right track. What I do in this short commentary is to raise some (...)
  6. added 2018-07-07
    Learning, Acquired Dispositions and the Humean Theory of Motivation.Christos Douskos - 2018 - Philosophical Papers 47 (2):199-233.
    A central point of contention in the ongoing debate between Humean and anti-Humean accounts of moral motivation concerns the theoretical credentials of the idea of mental states that are cognitive and motivational at the same time. Humeans claim that this idea is incoherent and thereby unintelligible (M. Smith, The Moral Problem, Blackwell 1994). I start by developing a linguistic argument against this claim. The semantics of certain ‘learning to’ and ‘knowing to’ ascriptions points to a dispositional state that has both (...)
  7. added 2018-06-12
    An Empirical Solution to the Puzzle of Weakness of Will.Julia Haas - 2018 - Synthese:1-21.
    This paper presents an empirical solution to the puzzle of weakness of will. Specifically, it presents a theory of action, grounded in contemporary cognitive neuroscientific accounts of decision making, that explains the phenomenon of weakness of will without resulting in a puzzle.
  8. 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 (...)
  9. added 2018-03-29
    Uncertainty and Control.Sven Ove Hansson - 2017 - Diametros 53:50-59.
    In a decision making context, an agent’s uncertainty can be either epistemic, i.e. due to her lack of knowledge, or agentive, i.e. due to her not having made use of her decision-making power. In cases when it is unclear whether or not a decision maker presently has control over her own future actions, it is difficult to determine whether her uncertainty is epistemic or agentive. Such situations are often difficult for the agent to deal with, but from an outsider’s perspective, (...)
  10. added 2018-02-23
    Christopher G. Framarin's Desire and Motivation in Indian Philosophy, Routledge Hindu Studies. [REVIEW]Malcolm Keating - 2013 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 133 (1):160-62.
  11. added 2018-02-18
    The "Guise of the Ought-to-Be". A Deontic View of the Intentionality of Desire.Federico Lauria - 2017 - In Federico Lauria & Julien Deonna (eds.), The Nature of Desire. New York: Oxford University Press.
    How are we to understand the intentionality of desire? According to the two classical views, desire is either a positive evaluation or a disposition to act. This essay examines these conceptions of desire and argues for a deontic alternative, namely the view that desiring is representing a state of affairs as what ought to be. Three lines of criticism of the classical pictures of desire are provided. The first concerns desire’s direction of fit, i.e. the intuition that the world should (...)
  12. added 2018-02-17
    A Companion to Hume.Elizabeth S. Radcliffe (ed.) - 2008 - Wiley-Blackwell.
    Comprised of twenty-nine specially commissioned essays, _A Companion to Hume_ examines the depth of the philosophies and influence of one of history's most remarkable thinkers. Demonstrates the range of Hume's work and illuminates the ongoing debates that it has generated Organized by subject, with introductions to each section to orient the reader Explores topics such as knowledge, passion, morality, religion, economics, and politics Examines the paradoxes of Hume's thought and his legacy, covering the methods, themes, and consequences of his contributions (...)
  13. added 2018-01-11
    Cares, Identification, and Agency Reductionism.Christopher Evan Franklin - 2017 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 98 (S1):577-598.
    Reductionists about agency maintain that an agent’s causing something is reducible to states and events involving the agent causing something. Some worry that reductionism cannot accommodate robust forms of agency, such as self-determination. One reductionist answer to this worry, which I call ‘identification reductionism,’ contends that self-governing agents are identified with certain attitudes, and so these attitudes’ causing a decision count as the agent’s self-determining the decision. I argue that a prominent species of identification reductionism developed by Harry Frankfurt, Agnieszka (...)
  14. added 2018-01-02
    Reason and Agency.Thomas Pink - 1997 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 97 (3):263–280.
  15. added 2017-09-14
    What Kind of Theory is the Humean Theory of Motivation?Caroline T. Arruda - 2017 - Ratio 30 (3):322-342.
    I consider an underappreciated problem for proponents of the Humean theory of motivation. Namely, it is unclear whether is it to be understood as a largely psychological or largely metaphysical theory. I show that the psychological interpretation of HTM will need to be modified in order to be a tenable view and, as it will turn out, the modifications required render it virtually philosophically empty. I then argue that the largely metaphysical interpretation is the only a plausible interpretation of HTM's (...)
  16. added 2017-09-03
    Thinking, Acting, Considering.Daniel Muñoz - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (2):255-270.
    According to a familiar (alleged) requirement on practical reason, one must believe a proposition if one is to take it for granted in reasoning about what to do. This paper explores a related requirement, not on thinking but on acting—that one must accept a goal if one is to count as acting for its sake. This is the acceptance requirement. Although it is endorsed by writers as diverse as Christine Korsgaard, Donald Davidson, and Talbot Brewer, I argue that it is (...)
  17. added 2017-06-12
    The Guise of the Good.J. David Velleman - 1992 - Noûs 26 (1):3 - 26.
    The agent portrayed in much philosophy of action is, let's face it, a square. He does nothing intentionally unless he regards it or its consequences as desirable. The reason is that he acts intentionally only when he acts out of a desire for some anticipated outcome; and in desiring that outcome, he must regard it as having some value. All of his intentional actions are therefore directed at outcomes regarded sub specie boni: under the guise of the good. This agent (...)
  18. added 2017-06-12
    D. Charles, "Aristotle's Philosophy of Action".James G. Lennox - 1986 - Philosophical Quarterly 36 (145):543.
  19. added 2017-05-31
    Ramsey's Principle Re-Situated.Jérôme Dokic & Pascal Engel - 2004 - In Hallvard Lillehammer & D. H. Mellor (eds.), Ramsey's Legacy. Oxford University Press.
    This paper is about Ramsey's Principle, according to which a belief's truth-conditions are those that guarantee the success of an action based on that belief whatever the underlying motivating desires. Some philosophers have argued that the Principle should be rejected because it leads to the apparently implausible consequence that any failure of action is the result of some false belief on the agent's part. There is a gap between action and success that cannot be bridged by the agent's cognitive state. (...)
  20. added 2017-05-15
    Intention, Motive and Responsibility.Winston Barnes, W. D. Falk & A. E. Duncan-Jones - 1945 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 19:230-288.
  21. 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, (...)
  22. added 2017-03-24
    Ethical Non-Naturalism and the Guise of the Good.Francesco Orsi - 2018 - Topoi (4):581-590.
    The paper presents a positive argument for a version of metaphysically light ethical non-naturalism from the nature of mental states such as desires. It uses as its premise the time-honoured, and recently rediscovered, doctrine of the guise of the good, whereby it is essential to desire that the object of desire be conceived as good or as normatively favoured under some description. The argument is that if the guise of the good is a correct theory of desire, then a certain (...)
  23. added 2017-03-04
    The Motivational Strength of Intentions.Renée Bilodeau - 2006 - The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy 9:129-135.
    According to the early versions of the causal theory of action, intentional actions were both produced and explained by a beliefdesire pair. Since the end of the seventies, however, most philosophers consider intentions as an irreducible and indispensable component of any adequate account of intentional action. The aim of this paper is to examine and evaluate some of the arguments that gave rise to the introduction of the concept of intention in action theory. My contention is that none of them (...)
  24. added 2017-03-01
    Halfhearted Action and Control.Shepherd Joshua - 2017 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 4.
    Some of the things we do intentionally we do halfheartedly. I develop and defend an account of halfheartedness with respect to action on which one is halfhearted with respect to an action A if one’s overall motivation to A is weak. This requires getting clear on what it is to have some level of overall motivation with respect to an action, and on what it means to say one’s overall motivation is weak or strong. After developing this account, I defend (...)
  25. added 2017-02-21
    Halfhearted Action and Control.Shepherd Joshua - 2017 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 4.
    Some of the things we do intentionally we do halfheartedly. I develop and defend an account of halfheartedness with respect to action on which one is halfhearted with respect to an action A if one’s overall motivation to A is weak. This requires getting clear on what it is to have some level of overall motivation with respect to an action, and on what it means to say one’s overall motivation is weak or strong. After developing this account, I defend (...)
  26. added 2017-01-13
    A Challenge for Humean Externalism.Steven Swartzer - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (1):23-44.
    Humean externalism is the view that moral motivation must be explained in terms of desires that are “external” to an agent’s motivationally-inert moral judgments. A standard argument in favor of Humean externalism appeals to the possibility of amoral or morally cynical agents—agents for whom moral considerations gain no motivational traction. The possibility of such agents seems to provide evidence for both the claim that moral judgments are themselves motivationally inert, and the claim that moral motivation has its source in desires (...)
  27. added 2016-12-12
    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, (...)
  28. added 2016-12-12
    Weakness of Will and Practical Irrationality.Sarah Stroud & Christine Tappolet (eds.) - 2003 - Clarendon Press.
    Sarah Stroud and Christine Tappolet present eleven original essays on weakness of will, a topic straddling the divide between moral philosophy and philosophy of mind, and the subject of much current attention. An international team of established scholars and younger talent provide perspectives on all the key issues in this fascinating debate; the book will be essential reading for anyone working in the area. Issues covered include classical questions, such as the distinction between weakness and compulsion, the connection between evaluative (...)
  29. added 2016-12-12
    Understanding Action: An Essay on Reasons.Frederic Schick - 1991 - Cambridge University Press.
    This is an important new book about human motivation, about the reasons people have for their actions. What is distinctively new about it is its focus on how people see or understand their situations, options, and prospects. By taking account of people's understandings, Professor Schick is able to expand the current theory of decision and action. The author provides a perspective on the topic by outlining its history. He defends his new theory against criticism, considers its formal structure, and shows (...)
  30. 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 (...)
  31. added 2016-12-08
    Motivation and Agency: Precis.Alfred R. Mele - 2005 - Philosophical Studies 123 (3):243-247.
    This is a POD only reprint of a 2002 philosophy monograph, which discusses themes related to motivation and human action.
  32. added 2016-12-08
    Comments on Alfred Mele, Motivation and Agency – Discussion.Carl Ginet - 2005 - Philosophical Studies 123 (3):261-272.
  33. added 2016-12-05
    A Companion to the Philosophy of Action.Timothy O'Connor & Constantine Sandis (eds.) - 2010 - Wiley-Blackwell.
    A Companion to the Philosophy of Action offers a comprehensive overview of the issues and problems central to the philosophy of action. The first volume to survey the entire field of philosophy of action (the central issues and processes relating to human actions). Brings together specially commissioned chapters from international experts. Discusses a range of ideas and doctrines, including rationality, free will and determinism, virtuous action, criminal responsibility, Attribution Theory, and rational agency in evolutionary perspective. Individual chapters also cover prominent (...)
  34. 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.
  35. added 2016-12-02
    Moral Action.Edward Pols - 1986 - Review of Metaphysics 40 (2):399-402.
  36. added 2016-12-02
    Wants, Decisions and Human Action.Andrew Barr Schoedinger - 1974 - Dissertation, Brown University
  37. added 2016-11-18
    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 (...)
  38. added 2016-11-08
    A Solution for Buridan’s Ass.Eugene Chislenko - 2016 - Ethics 126 (2):283-310.
    Buridan’s Ass faced a choice between two identical bales of hay; governed only by reason, the donkey starved, unable to choose. It seems clear that we face many such cases, and resolve them successfully. Our success seems to tell against any view on which action and intention require evaluative preference. I argue that these views can account for intention and intentional action in cases like that of Buridan’s Ass. A decision to act nonintentionally allows us to resolve these cases without (...)
  39. added 2016-11-08
    Participation and Organizational Commitment During Change: From Utopist to Realist Perspectives.Rune Lines & Marcus Selart - 2013 - In Skipton Leonard, Rachel Lewis, Arthur Freedman & Jonathan Passmore (eds.), Handbook of the psychology of leadership, change, and organizational development. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 289-313.
    Trust has a great potential for furthering our understanding of organizational change and learning. This potential however remains largely untapped. It is argued that two reasons as for why this potential remains unrealized are: (i) A narrow conceptualization of change as implementation and (ii) an emphasis on direct and aggregated effects of individual trust to the exclusion of other effects. It is further suggested that our understanding of the effects of trust on organizational change, should benefit from including effects of (...)
  40. added 2016-11-08
    Effects of Reward on Self-Regulation, Intrinsic Motivation and Creativity.Marcus Selart, Thomas Nordström, Bård Kuvaas & Kazuhisa Takemura - 2008 - Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research 52 (5):439-458.
    This article evaluates the effects of two types of rewards (performance-contingent versus engagement-contingent) on self-regulation, intrinsic motivation and creativity. Forty-two undergraduate students were randomly assigned to three conditions; i.e. a performance-contingent reward group, an engagement-contingent reward group and a control group. Results provide little support for the negative effects of performance rewards on motivational components. However, they do indicate that participants in the engagement-contingent reward group and the control group achieved higher rated creativity than participants in the performance-contingent reward group. (...)
  41. added 2016-08-25
    Belief & Desire the Standard Model of Intentional Action : Critique and Defence.Björn Petersson - 2000 - Björn Petersson, Dep. Of Philosophy, Kungshuset, Lundagård, Se-222 22 Lund,.
    The scheme of concepts we employ in daily life to explain intentional behaviour form a belief-desire model , in which motivating states are sorted into two suitably broad categories. The BD model embeds a philosophy of action, i.e. a set of assumptions about the ontology of motivation with subsequent restrictions on psychologising and norms of practical reason. A comprehensive critique of those assumptions and implications is offered in this work, and various criticisms of the model are met. The model’s predictive (...)
  42. added 2016-08-21
    The Motivational Strength of Intentions.Renée Bilodeau - 2006 - The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy 9:129-135.
    According to the early versions of the causal theory of action, intentional actions were both produced and explained by a belief desire pair. Since the end of the seventies, however, most philosophers consider intentions as an irreducible and indispensable component of any adequate account of intentional action. The aim of this paper is to examine and evaluate some of the arguments that gave rise to the introduction of the concept of intention in action theory. My contention is that none of (...)
  43. added 2016-08-17
    Freudian Wish-Fulfilment and Sub-Intentional Explanation.Tamas Pataki - 2000 - In M. Levine (ed.), The Analytic Freud. Routledge. pp. 49--84.
  44. added 2016-08-09
    From Good Intentions to Willpower.Walter Mischel - 1996 - In P. Gollwitzer & John A. Bargh (eds.), The Psychology of Action: Linking Cognition and Motivation to Behavior. Guilford. pp. 9--197.
  45. added 2016-08-09
    Human Action. Conceptual and Empirical Issues.Theodore Mischel - 1971 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 31 (4):606-608.
  46. added 2016-08-09
    The Moral Relevance of Motives, Intentions, and Actions.Hans Fredrick Oberdiek - 1965 - Dissertation, The University of Wisconsin - Madison
  47. added 2016-08-09
    ANSCOMBE, G. E. M. -Intention. [REVIEW]K. W. Rankin - 1959 - Mind 68:261.
  48. added 2016-07-20
    Interpreting Anscombe's Intention §32FF.Anne Newstead - 2009 - Journal of Philosophical Research 34:157-176.
    G. E. M. Anscombe’s view that agents know what they are doing “without observation” has been met with skepticism and the charge of confusion and falsehood. Simultaneously, some commentators think that Anscombe has captured an important truth about the first-personal character of an agent’s awareness of her actions. This paper attempts an explanation and vindication of Anscombe’s view. The key to the vindication lies in focusing on the role of practical knowledge in an agent’s knowledge of her actions. Few commentators, (...)
  49. added 2016-07-20
    When Are My Actions Due to Me?Denise Meyerson - 1994 - Analysis 54 (3):171 - 174.
  50. added 2016-05-04
    Motives, Intentions, and Actions.Roy Frederick Lawrence - 1966 - Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley
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