Morality as What One Really Desires

Midwest Studies in Philosophy 20 (1):142-164 (1995)
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If I desire to drink some stuff thinking it is hot chocolate when actually it is hot mud, my desire is not a real one - it’s mistaken or only apparent. This example illustrates how a desire must always depend on a belief about its object, a belief about what it is and what it’s like. But beliefs are correctable, so desires are correctable. This leads us directly to a very sweeping principle - that I only really desire what I would be desiring with a perfect grasp of everything involved. If there’s something that I desire only because my grasp of it is less than perfect, then it is not something that I really desire. I have no real reason for wanting it, and it would not be in my real self-interest to get it. The hypothetical perfect grasp that defines a real desire would have to have a God-like reach into all the relevant realities in all their actuality and all their potential. And it would have to include perfectly within it all the desires of all those affected by what the grasp was of. Therefore what would be wanted in a perfect grasp would be a reconciliation of all the systems of desire contained within it - not as they happen to be but as they would be corrected by a perfect grasp. This reconciliation of systems of desire is that which morality requires. Therefore what I really want - my own fully-corrected self-interest - is precisely the same as the requirements of morality. This sameness explains and justifies morality’s categorical character and over-riding authority.



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Arnold Zuboff
University College London

References found in this work

Equality.Thomas Nagel - 1979 - In Mortal questions. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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