Desire as Belief: A Study of Desire, Motivation, and Rationality

Oxford: Oxford University Press (2021)
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Abstract

What is it to want something? Or, as philosophers might ask, what is a desire? This book defends “desire-as-belief”, the view that desires are just a special subset of our beliefs: normative beliefs. This view entitles us to accept orthodox models of human motivation and rationality that explain those things with reference to desire, but nonetheless to also make room for our normative beliefs to play a role in those domains. And this view tells us to diverge from the orthodox view on which desires themselves can never be right or wrong. Rather, according to desire-as-belief, our desires can themselves be assessed for their accuracy, and they are wrong when they misrepresent normative features of the world. Hume says that it is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of your finger, but he is wrong: it is foolish to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of your finger, and this is foolish because this preference misrepresents the relative worth of these things.

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Alex Gregory
University of Southampton

Citations of this work

How Simple is the Humean Theory of Motivation?Olof Leffler - 2022 - Philosophical Explorations 25 (2):125-140.
The Mirage of Motivation Reason Internalism.Saleh Afroogh - 2022 - Journal of Value Inquiry 56:1-19.

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