In light of the current economic situation (along with some personal interests), I have decided to take a look at the real-world concern of finding a new job in the light of what desire utilitarianism has to say about the issue.
In an earlier post I suggested that landing a job involves convincing a hiring agent that the intentional act of hiring you will fulfill the most and strongest of her desires, given her beliefs. You will not get a job offer until you have made this true.
Whether you like it or not, all of the hiring agent's desires are relevant. Everything from her desire to laugh to her concern for her children to her interest in pleasing her boss to her fear of flying. If she sees hiring you as aiding in the fulfillment or thwarting of any of her desires, this will influence the intentional act of hiring you.
One of the implications of this is that you can manipulate the hiring agent's actions by manipulating her beliefs. The hiring agent only needs to believe that hiring you will help to realize states of affairs in which the propositions that are the objects of her desires are true, and avoid realizing states of affairs in which the propositions that are the objects of her aversions are true. Those beliefs do not have to be accurate.
If you are a good person, you should have an aversion to lying. Lying itself is an intentional act – one that a person with an aversion to lying has a reason not to perform. However, my guess is that even a person with an aversion to lying also has an aversion to homelessness and starvation. These aversions may motivate an agent to act so as to avoid the realization of such a state – that is to say, to lie to get a job.
Obviously, some people do lie to get a job. Desirism has to account for the fact that these types of events are known to occur, and it does. However, the existence of lying does not change the fact that people generally have reason to promote a strong aversion to lying, and thus to condemn (and to punish) those who are caught doing so. It does not matter that their lies can be explained – all evil actions can still be explained, theoretically. It matters whether the explanation includes desires that people generally have reason to promote or inhibit.
Employers clearly have reason to avoid hiring people who will manipulate them – using false belief to cause others to act in ways that fail to fulfill their desires so that the liar can fulfill his own desires.
This means that one of the things that you can do as a perspective employee is to make it clear that you have a sufficiently strong aversion to misrepresenting the facts to manipulate others. Make your honesty clear, and you will make it clear to the hiring agent that she can trust what you have said, and what you will say when hired.
Yet, still, you need to cause the hiring agent to believe that hiring you will realize states that fulfill the most and strongest of her desires and avoid the realization of states that fulfill the most and strongest of her aversions.
One of the ways to do this is to be willing to negotiate. "Look, I know that your hiring decision will be based on whether you believe it will lead to the fulfillment of the most and strongest of your desires. So, let me start by saying that I consider myself obligated to discover what those desires are and to make or keep the propositions that are the objects of those desires true. If you hate public speaking, perhaps I can do some of the public speaking work in your stead. If you hate mundane paperwork, I can take over that job."
Find out what the hiring agent wants, and then find a way to bring about a state in which the propositions that are the objects of those desires will more likely be made or kept true.
In exchange, recall, you are seeking to fulfill the most and strongest of your desires by getting paid enough to purchase food, shelter, medical care, and the like.
Of course, I have bypassed the question of the quality of desires that the hiring agent has (or lacks). It is quite possible that the hiring agent has desires that you are not particularly interested in fulfilling – and some that you definitely think you should not need to fulfill in order to be considered for a job.
This gets into issues such as bribery and sexual harassment.
In my next post, I will look at some problems with the prospect of fulfilling the most and strongest of the hiring agent's desires.