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

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Oxford University Press, 2021 - Philosophy - 223 pages
What is it to want something? Or, as philosophers might ask, what is a desire? The idea that we explain and evaluate actions with essential reference to what people want is compelling, as it speaks to common-sense ideas that our wants lie at the heart of our decision-making. Yet our wants seem to have a competitor: our beliefs about what we ought to do. Such normative beliefs alone may often suffice to explain our actions. To try and resolve this tension, this book defends "desire as belief", the view that desires are just a special subset of our normative beliefs. This view entitles us to accept orthodox models of human motivation and rationality that explain those things with reference to desire, while also making room for our normative beliefs to play a role in those domains. This view also 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, precisely because this preference misrepresents the relative worth of these things. This book mounts an engaging and comprehensive defence of these ideas.
 

Contents

Introduction
1
What is Desireas Belief
6
Desire and Motivation
25
Normative Belief and Motivation
48
Desire and Rationality
75
Irrationality
94
The Guise of the Normative
113
Desire and Feeling
130
Uncertainty and Reasoning
148
Representing Reasons
170
Desires and Reasons
187
Conclusion
199
Lewis on DesireasBelief
203
Bibliography
207
Index
221
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About the author (2021)

Alex Gregory, Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Southampton Alex Gregory is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Southampton. He has published most frequently on the nature of desire, but also on other issues such as the nature of normative reasons, the nature of disability, and questions about wellbeing.

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