Are There Passive Desires?

Dialectica 63 (2):133-155 (2009)

David Wall
Australian National University
What is the relation between desire and action? According to a traditional, widespread and influential view I call ‘The Motivational Necessity of Desire’, having a desire that p entails being disposed to act in ways that you believe will bring about p. But what about desires like a desire that the committee chooses you without your needing to do anything, or a desire that your child passes her exams on her own? Such ‘self‐passive’ desires are often given as a counter‐example to MN. If MN is true then self‐passive desires seem absurd: if someone has a self‐passive desire she will be disposed to act, thereby preventing her from getting what she desires. But it seems that we can reasonably, and often do, have such desires. However, I argue that self‐passive desires are not, in fact, counter‐examples to MN: close consideration of the content of these desires, the contexts in which we ascribe them, and what is claimed by MN show that they are not a problem for that view. I also argue that strengthened versions of the examples are unsuccessful, and I offer a diagnosis of why these kinds of case are commonly thought to raise a challenge to MN.
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DOI 10.1111/dltc.2009.63.issue-2
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What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
The Concept of Mind.Gilbert Ryle - 1949 - Hutchinson & Co.

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The Nature of Desire.Federico Lauria & Julien Deonna (eds.) - 2017 - New York, USA: Oxford University Press.

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