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Can Desires Provide Reasons for Action?

In R. Jay Wallace, Philip Pettit, Samuel Scheffler & Michael Smith (eds.), Reason and Value: Themes From the Moral Philosophy of Joseph Raz. Oxford University Press. pp. 56--90 (2004)

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  1. Against Strong Cognitivism: An Argument From Caring.Hilla Jacobson - 2015 - Dialogue 54 (1):139-158.
    According to ‘strong cognitivism’, all reasons for action are rooted in normative features that the motivated subject takes objects to have independently of her attitudes towards these objects. My main concern in this paper is to argue against strong cognitivism, that is, to establish the view that conative attitudes do provide subjects with reasons for action. My central argument to this effect is a top-down one that proceeds by an analysis of the complex phenomenon of caring and derives a conclusion (...)
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  • Desire-Based Theories of Reasons, Pleasure, and Welfare.Chris Heathwood - 2011 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 6:79-106.
    One of the most important disputes in the foundations of ethics concerns the source of practical reasons. On the desire-based view, only one’s desires provide one with reasons to act. On the value-based view, reasons are instead provided by the objective evaluative facts, and never by our desires. Similarly, there are desire-based and non-desired-based theories about two other phenomena: pleasure and welfare. It has been argued, and is natural to think, that holding a desire-based theory about either pleasure or welfare (...)
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  • Which Desires Are Relevant to Well‐Being?Chris Heathwood - 2019 - Noûs 53 (3):664-688.
    The desire-satisfaction theory of well-being says, in its simplest form, that a person’s level of welfare is determined by the extent to which their desires are satisfied. A question faced by anyone attracted to such a view is, *Which desires*? This paper proposes a new answer to this question by characterizing a distinction among desires that isn’t much discussed in the well-being literature. This is the distinction between what a person wants in a merely behavioral sense, in that the person (...)
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  • Objective Reasons.Michael Pendlebury - 2007 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 45 (4):533-563.
    In order to establish that judgments about practical reasons can be objective, it is necessary to show that the applicable standards provide an adequate account of truth and error. This in turn requires that these standards yield an extensive set of substantive, publicly accessible judgments that are presumptively true. This output requirement is not satisfied by the standards of universalizability, consistency, coherence, and caution alone. But it is satisfied if we supplement them with the principle that desire is a source (...)
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  • Future Desires, the Agony Argument, and Subjectivism About Reasons.Eden Lin - 2020 - Philosophical Review 129 (1):95-130.
    Extant discussions of subjectivism about reasons for action have concentrated on presentist versions of the theory, on which reasons for present actions are grounded in present desires. In this article, I motivate and investigate the prospects of futurist subjectivism, on which reasons for present actions are grounded in present or future desires. Futurist subjectivism promises to answer Parfit's Agony Argument, and it is motivated by natural extensions of some of the considerations that support subjectivism in general. However, it faces a (...)
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  • Desire and Satisfaction.Ashley Shaw - 2020 - Philosophical Quarterly 70 (279):371-384.
    Desire satisfaction has not received detailed philosophical examination. Yet intuitive judgments about the satisfaction of desires have been used as data points guiding theories of desire, desire content, and the semantics of ‘desire’. This paper examines desire satisfaction and the standard propositional view of desire. Firstly, I argue that there are several distinct concepts of satisfaction. Secondly, I argue that separating them defuses a difficulty for the standard view in accommodating desires that Derek Parfit described as ‘implicitly conditional on their (...)
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  • Beyond Objectivism and Subjectivism.Fritz J. McDonald - 2016 - In Piotr Makowski, Mateusz Bonecki & Krzysztof Nowak-Posadzy (eds.), Praxiology and the Reasons for Action. Transaction Publishers.
    Subjectivism about reasons is the view that a person has a reason to perform act A if she has some motivation to do A, or would have motivation to do A in certain circumstances. In On What Matters, Derek Parfit presents a series of arguments against subjectivism about reasons. In Parfit’s view, if subjectivism were true, nothing would actually matter. Parfit contends that there are only two positions regarding reasons: objectivism and subjectivism. I will argue for an inclusive position on (...)
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  • Affective Experience, Desire, and Reasons for Action.Declan Smithies & Jeremy Weiss - 2019 - Analytic Philosophy 60 (1):27-54.
    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 (...)
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  • The Nature of Desire.Federico Lauria & Julien Deonna (eds.) - 2017 - New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
    Desires matter. What are desires? Many believe that desire is a motivational state: desiring is being disposed to act. This conception aligns with the functionalist approach to desire and the standard account of desire's role in explaining action. According to a second influential approach, however, desire is first and foremost an evaluation: desiring is representing something as good. After all, we seem to desire things under the guise of the good. Which understanding of desire is more accurate? Is the guise (...)
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  • Imperfect Reasons and Rational Options.Douglas W. Portmore - 2012 - Noûs 46 (1):24 - 60.
    Agents often face a choice of what to do. And it seems that, in most of these choice situations, the relevant reasons do not require performing some particular act, but instead permit performing any of numerous act alternatives. This is known as the basic belief. Below, I argue that the best explanation for the basic belief is not that the relevant reasons are incommensurable (Raz) or that their justifying strength exceeds the requiring strength of opposing reasons (Gert), but that they (...)
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  • "The Logic of the Liver". A Deontic View of the Intentionality of Desire.Federico Lauria - 2014 - Dissertation, University of Geneva
    Desires matter. 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: to desire a state is to positively evaluate it or to be disposed to act to realize it. This Ph.D. Dissertation examines these conceptions of desire and proposes a deontic alternative inspired by Meinong. On this view, desiring is representing a state of affairs as what ought to be or, if one prefers, (...)
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  • 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, (...)
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  • Incommensurability and Moral Value.Mark R. Reiff - 2014 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 13 (3):237-268.
    Some theorists believe that there is a plurality of values, and that in many circumstances these values are incommensurable, or at least incomparable. Others believe that all values are reducible to a single super-value, or that even if there is a plurality of irreducible values these values are commensurable. But I will argue that both sides have got it wrong. Values are neither commensurable nor incommensurable, at least not in the way most people think. We are free to believe in (...)
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  • Against Second‐Order Reasons.Daniel Whiting - 2017 - Noûs 51 (2):398-420.
    A normative reason for a person to? is a consideration which favours?ing. A motivating reason is a reason for which or on the basis of which a person?s. This paper explores a connection between normative and motivating reasons. More specifically, it explores the idea that there are second-order normative reasons to? for or on the basis of certain first-order normative reasons. In this paper, I challenge the view that there are second-order reasons so understood. I then show that prominent views (...)
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  • Desires Without Guises: Why We Need Not Value What We Want.Sabine Döring & Bahadir Eker - forthcoming - In Julien Deonna & Federico Lauria (eds.), The Nature of Desire. Oxford University Press.
    Evaluativism about desire, the view that desires just are, or necessarily involve, positive evaluations of their objects, currently enjoys widespread popularity in many philosophical circles. This chapter argues that evaluativism, in both of its doxastic and perceptual versions, overstates and mischaracterises the connection between desires and evaluations. Whereas doxastic evaluativism implausibly rules out cases where someone has a desire, despite evaluating its object negatively, being uncertain about its value, or having no doxastic attitude whatsoever towards its evaluative status at all, (...)
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  • Desires as Additional Reasons? The Case of Tie-Breaking.Attila Tanyi - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 152 (2):209-227.
    According to the Desire-Based Reasons Model reasons for action are provided by desires. Many, however, are critical about the Model holding an alternative view of practical reason, which is often called valued-based. In this paper I consider one particular attempt to refute the Model, which advocates of the valued-based view often appeal to: the idea of reason-based desires. The argument is built up from two premises. The first claims that desires are states that we have reason to have. The second (...)
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  • 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 (...)
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  • The Verdictive Organization of Desire.Derek 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, (...)
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  • Reason and Desire: The Case of Affective Desires.Attila Tanyi - 2010 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 6 (2):67-89.
    The paper begins with an objection to the Desire-Based Reasons Model. The argument from reason-based desires holds that since desires are based on reasons (first premise), which they transmit but to which they cannot add (second premise), they cannot themselves provide reasons for action. In the paper I investigate an attack that has recently been launched against the first premise of this argument by Ruth Chang. Chang invokes a counterexample: affective desires. The aim of the paper is to see if (...)
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  • Pain for Objectivists: The Case of Matters of Mere Taste.David Sobel - 2005 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 8 (4):437 - 457.
    Can we adequately account for our reasons of mere taste without holding that our desires ground such reasons? Recently, Scanlon and Parfit have argued that we can, pointing to pleasure and pain as the grounds of such reasons. In this paper I take issue with each of their accounts. I conclude that we do not yet have a plausible rival to a desire-based understanding of the grounds of such reasons.
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  • Desire and Value in Practical Reasoning.Peter Fossey - 2014 - Dissertation, University of Warwick
    Intentional actions are those which are performed because the subject sees something to be said for performing them; the subject sees performing the action “in a positive light”. Intentional actions are therefore susceptible to a distinctive kind of explanation, which explains them as intentional; that is, which accounts for them in terms of their unique property, of being performed because the subject sees that there is something to be said for doing so. Practical reasoning is the process of figuring out (...)
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  • Rationality Without Reasons.Judith Baker - 2008 - Mind 117 (468):763-782.
    This paper challenges the assumption that reasons are intrinsic to rational action. A great many actions are not best understood as ones in which the agent acted for reasons--and yet they can be understood as rational, and as open to rational criticism. The relative paucity of explicit reason-giving, practical arguments in daily life presents a general philosophical problem. It reflects the existence of a class of ways in which reason can regulate action, which goes far beyond producing reasons or applying (...)
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  • Aims as Reasons.Niko Kolodny - 2011 - In Samuel Freeman, Rahul Kumar & R. Jay Wallace (eds.), Reasons and Recognition: Essays on the Philosophy of T.M. Scanlon. Oxford University Press. pp. 43-78.
  • Agency Regarding Our Reasons.Patrick Fleming - 2020 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 63 (2):136-157.
    ABSTRACTHow much control do we have over our reasons for action? Not much, but some. We all have reasons to avoid pain and not to inflict it on others. What explains our shared reasons? On an externalist account, reasons are grounded in values. All reasons are external to agency. This ensures that reasons are universal, so it is an attractive feature of moral and prudential reasons. However, when our reasons differ this is less attractive. In some cases, it seems like (...)
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  • Second-Order Preferences and Instrumental Rationality.Donald W. Bruckner - 2011 - Acta Analytica 26 (4):367-385.
    A second-order preference is a preference over preferences. This paper addresses the role that second-order preferences play in a theory of instrumental rationality. I argue that second-order preferences have no role to play in the prescription or evaluation of actions aimed at ordinary ends. Instead, second-order preferences are relevant to prescribing or evaluating actions only insofar as those actions have a role in changing or maintaining first-order preferences. I establish these claims by examining and rejecting the view that second-order preferences (...)
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  • Pain, Dislike and Experience.Guy Kahane - 2009 - Utilitas 21 (3):327-336.
    It is widely held that it is only contingent that the sensation of pain is disliked, and that when pain is not disliked, it is not intrinsically bad. This conjunction of claims has often been taken to support a subjectivist view of pain’s badness on which pain is bad simply because it is the object of a negative attitude and not because of what it feels like. In this paper, I argue that accepting this conjunction of claims does not commit (...)
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  • Pure Time Preference.Rosemary Lowry & Martin Peterson - 2011 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 92 (4):490-508.
    Pure time preference is a preference for something to come at one point in time rather than another merely because of when it occurs in time. In opposition to Sidgwick, Ramsey, Rawls, and Parfit we argue that it is not always irrational to be guided by pure time preferences. We argue that even if the mere difference of location in time is not a rational ground for a preference, time may nevertheless be a normatively neutral ground for a preference, and (...)
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  • Against Strong Cognitivism: An Argument From the Particularity of Love.Hilla Jacobson - 2016 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 92 (3):563-596.
    According to the view we may term “strong cognitivism”, all reasons for action are rooted in normative features that the motivated subject takes objects to have independently of her attitudes towards these objects. The main concern of this paper is to argue against strong cognitivism, that is, to establish the view that conative attitudes do provide subjects with reasons for action. The central argument to this effect is a top-down argument: it proceeds by an analysis of the complex phenomenon of (...)
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  • The Desires of Others.Berislav Marušić - 2010 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (3):385-400.
    An influential view, defended by Thomas Scanlon and others, holds that desires are almost never reasons. I seek to resist this view and show that someone who desires something does thereby have a reason to satisfy her desire. To show this, I argue, first, that the desires of some others are reasons for us and, second, that our own desires are no less reason-giving than those of others. In concluding, I emphasize that accepting my view does not commit one to (...)
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