Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Desirism and the Job Hunting: Part 1

Two weeks away from this blog, and my job, and much of my day-to-day routine provided me with some time to look at that routine from a new perspective.

It has also become something of a habit to look at those perspectives in the language of desirism.

One of the conclusions that I drew during that vacation is that I have many and strong reasons to act so as to realize a state of affairs in which I was spending more time doing things that I hold to have at least some value, and less time doing things that have mere instrumental value.

Let me offer a partial translation into more common terms. I very much enjoyed having the time to read and comment on some of the philosophical texts that had been sent to me over the course of the past few months. I wish I had more time to do that sort of thing. Unfortunately, I am confined by a need to perform activities that I do not enjoy (that have no end value), because they have instrumental value (provide me and those whose welfare concern me greatly – my wife – with a salary that I can use to purchase food, shelter, and access to medical care).

In other words, I think I would like to find a new job. It would be one in which I have more of an opportunity to read and to write on the subjects that actually interest me. At the same time, it would provide me with the means to pay for food, shelter, and medical care. Such a state is to b preferred to a state in which my job merely provides me with a means of paying for food, shelter, and medical care.

It is interesting to look at the prospect of finding a new job through the lens of desirism. Given the current state of the economy, some readers might even draw some useful lessons from the exercise.

Desirism tells us that the act of hiring an employee is an intentional act. As such, the hiring agent will perform such an act when doing so will fulfill the most and the strongest of the hiring agent's desires, given her beliefs.

This suggests that a fitting strategy to pursue in seeking a new job is to identify hiring agents, determine the desires of the hiring agent, and then provide the hiring agent with beliefs such that, given those beliefs, the hiring agent can expect the fulfillment of the most and strongest of her current desires. (Remember, future desires have no influence on current actions.)

The emphasis here is on the beliefs and desires of the hiring agent (or, actually, in many cases, agents). It does no good to focus one’s attention on the hypothetical interests of some abstract 'company'. Companies do not make hiring decisions.

Furthermore, one should keep in mind that I am talking about fulfilling the most and the strongest of the hiring agent's desires. All of her desires. This includes not only an employee capable of contributing to the company's bottom line (this is never the only concern of any hiring agent), but somebody who it would be easy to work with, who makes coming to work more pleasurable, who gets along with other members of the team, who looks attractive, who will make the hiring agent look good in front of her boss, and so on.

Looks attractive? Why is that in there? That shouldn’t be in there?

Agents act so as to fulfill the most and strongest of their desires, given their beliefs. ALL desires. This desire is in the mix. It is irrational to pretend that it is not. It is also irrational to pretend that it should not be. 'Ought' implies 'can'. To say that an agent ought not to hire based on appearance is to say that an agent ought to have no preferences with respect to appearance – has no such desires to fulfill (or is one who remains ignorant of the facts of the matter until a hiring decision is made). The former is impossible and the latter is impractical.

This analysis, then, raises a number of moral concerns.

Since hiring agents act to fulfill the most and strongest of their desires given their beliefs, one way to manipulate a hiring agent is to generate false beliefs about the relationship between the state in which the applicant has been hired and the desires of the hiring agent. In other words, to lie.

There is also the prospect of fulfilling other desires having nothing to do with the job, such as sexual desire or bribery and kickbacks. These forms of corruption exist precisely because hiring agents act so as to fulfill the most and strongest of their desires, given their beliefs.

These moral issues of the job market are worth further consideration.

Starting tomorrow.

1 comment:

Kip said...

What type of work do you currently do? And what type of work do you think you would like to do?