Desires and Normative Truths: A Holist's Response to the Sceptics

Mind 121 (482):375-406 (2012)
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Abstract

According to the practicality requirement, there could be truths about what people have reason to do only if people’s motivating states could be, in an appropriate sense, either correct or incorrect. Yet according to the Humean theory of motivation, people’s motivating states are a species of desire, and these desires are not a species of belief, being neither identical to nor entailed by them; and according to the standard view of desire, P’s desire to is, at bottom, a disposition to act in whatever ways she believes will increase her chances of -ing. As there is no obvious sense in which such disposition are aiming to get P’s reasons right, they seem incapable of satisfying the practicality requirement and scepticism about normative truths seems to follow. I argue, first, that this sceptical conclusion is best avoided, not by rejecting either the practicality requirement or the Humean theory of motivation, but rather by rejecting the standard view of desire, and, second, that this is best done by endorsing a holistic view, according to which the contents of people’s desires depend importantly, though not essentially, on the contents of their normative beliefs

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Citations of this work

Davidson’s Meta-Normative Naturalism.Robert Myers - 2019 - Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 7 (2):47-58.
Meaning, Evidence, and Objectivity.Olivia Sultanescu - 2021 - In Syraya Chin-Mu Yang & Robert H. Myers (eds.), Donald Davidson on Action, Mind and Value. pp. 171-184.

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