In response to my previous posting where I declared that value is independent of belief, a member of the studio audience asked if I believed in the possibility of 'infeasible desires'.
What about the theist. Say they have a desire-as-end to serve the will of god. They mistakenly beleive this desire is... feasible? If they knew all the facts, then they would know that this desire is...infeasible?
Actually, in desire utilitarian terms, they would be unfulfillable desires. A desire that P cannot be fulfilled if it is not possible or P to be true. A desire to serve God is an unfulfillable desire. God does not exist, so the proposition "I am serving God" can never be made or kept true.
A person can be made to believe that he is serving God. As a result, a person with a desire to serve God and a belief that he is serving God can be made to feel a certain amount of satisfaction in his life. However, this type of satisfaction is similar to the satisfaction a person might feel if he wishes to be Napoleon and believes that he is Napoleon, or if he wishes to own a Rembrandt and believes the cheep painting in his living room is actually a Rembrandt. It has no real value.
In these types of cases, a change in the agent's beliefs may well result in a change in what the agent believes to have value. This is true. This is, actually, quite trivially true. However, it is compatible with this that beliefs are not relevant to whether something has value. Saying, "X has value means A would believe that X has value if A was fully informed," is still as trivial as saying, “The earth is 93 million miles from the sun means A would believe that the earth is 93 million miles from the sun if A were fully informed.”
In fact, learning that the painting is not a Rembrandt constitutes learning that it never did have the value the agent thought it did. It was never a Rembrandt – it was only believed to have been a Rembrandt. And it never was as valuable as the agent thought it was.
This is true in the same way that learning that somebody was born in 1950 instead of 1955 constitutes learning that she is 59 years old rather than 54 years old. Depending on her birthday, the proposition "She is 54 years old." did not suddenly go from being true to being false. It was always false (for the year in which this example applies).
"The painting is valuable" did not suddenly go from being true to being false, in just the same way that "The painting is a Rembrandt" did not go from being true to being false. Only beliefs about its value changed, not its actual value.
One of the implications of this is that, if a desire is unfulfillable, then no harm is done by any action that prevents the desire from being fulfilled. For example, a person may believe that he has the power to teleport from Los Angeles to New York as long as I do not trim my finger nails. My trimming my finger nails does not do constitute a harmful action because it does not prevent the proposition “I can teleport from Los Angeles to New York” from being true. The laws of physics do that for me.
So, if a person values legislation opposing homosexual marriage because he thinks that his actions serve God, and he desires to serve God, opposing that legislation does him no harm. Opposition to that legislation prevents him from serving God in the same way that my trimming my fingernails prevents the person in the previous example from teleporting from Los Angeles to New York.
Now, agents do tend to have a desire for the satisfaction that comes from having a desire that P and a belief that P is true. Though the desire that P cannot be fulfilled, the desire for the physical sensation that comes from the combined desire that P and belief that P is true can be fulfilled. That desire for satisfaction can be thwarted.
The anguish that a person may feel when he discovers that I have trimmed my finger nails or I have prevented her from passing legislation harmful to the interests of homosexuals are real and morally relevant – even if the desires that give rise to that anguish are not.
That anguish has some moral weight.