I would like to thank those readers who came to my defense when my ideas came under attack by none other than myself.
Unfortunately, it seems that I must agree with my critic and concede the fact that my prior formulation had some errors that are corrected by following my critic's recommendations.
I would like to look at some suggestions for defending my original position.
I can't really see how you can say that a desire can be mistaken. Someone either has a certain desire or she doesn't. Maybe she wouldn't have this desire(-as-means) IF she had perfect knowledge about the facts of the matter, but she has the desire nevertheless.
I am not saying that a desire can be mistaken. I am saying that a proposition about a desire-as-means can be false. A person can claim, “I desire-as-means X” and be mistaken. However, her desires are not mistaken. Her claim about those desires is mistaken.
This is true in the same sense that the weight of an object cannot be mistaken, but a claim about the weight of an object can be false.
I used the case of a woman who starts to take a drink out of a glass that she believes contains water, but which actually contains poison.
I think she really DOES want to drink the contents of the glass. The fact is that doing so and thus fulfilling this desire-as-means will not fulfill her desire-as-ends.
Then how does one explain the fact that merely changing the belief about the contents of the glass causes her to not want it anymore?
This new formulation says that informing the woman that the glass contains poison causes her to draw the implication that the proposition, “I want to drink the contents of this glass” is false. This realization of false belief causes her to put the glass down. Her desires did not change. She is still thirsty. She still wants a drink of water. What changed are her beliefs – her realization that the most and strongest of her desires cannot be fulfilled by this particular act.
She is acting in accordance with her strongest desire, given her belief. Her belief is that there is water in the glass. If she is about to drink the contents of the glass, what desire is giving her the motivation to do so?
Her thirst, combined with the false belief that the glass contains harmless thirst-quencher, is motivating her to drink from the glass. Her desire-as-end, combined with a false belief, gives hr a false belief about the value-as-means of drinking the contents of the glass. The desire-as-end provides the motivation, the belief selected the means, and a false belief selected the wrong means. It selected something that the agent does not really desire-as-means, but instead falsely believes she desires-as-means.
How can one "bring about P by bringing about Q" without having the relevant belief? It might be tacit and difficult to explicate and state but it is still a belief.
She cannot. Beliefs are a necessary component of intentional action. However, they are not a necessary component of desire. Desires are independent of belief. Even desire-as-means, I am now arguing, is independent of beliefs. Desires-as-means, I now claim, depends on the relationships between means and ends that exist as a matter of objective fact, whether people believe that those relationships exist or not.
The value of getting a flu shot exists because of the factual relationship between getting the shot and avoiding the flu (and the desires-as-ends fulfilled by avoiding the flu). A person who believes that a flu shot has negative value cannot make it true just by believing it.
She does want to drink the liquid, given her beliefs is correct.
Yes, she would want to drink the liquid if her beliefs were true. But, if her beliefs were true then the glass contains water, not poison. I am not denying that she would want to drink the liquid in the glass if the glass contained water. I am denying that she wants to drink the liquid in the glass given that the liquid is some sort of poison.
AFAICS there can be no sufficient reason without at least one belief and one desire. Or having a desire without a belief is not a reason (to act). Is this what you are challenging?
Having a desire without a belief is, in fact, the same as having a reason to act. However, action itself is impossible without beliefs. Desires and beliefs are necessary to form an intention. They are not necessary for ends to have value. Desires alone gives values ends. Desires and beliefs make it possible to act so as to realize the ends that desires give value to – as long as the beliefs are true and complete.
Isn't your definition of desire something like: An agent has a desire that P iff he/she will act in ways that (they believe) will realize states of affairs in which P is true. If an agent has a desire that P, and believes that realizing Q will realize P, then one would expect them to act in ways that they believe will realize Q, and so, by the above definition, they would have a desire (as means) that Q.
A belief that P is an attitude that the proposition P is true.
A desire-as-end that P is an attitude that the proposition P is to be made or kept true.
The issue here is whether an agent needs to desire-that-means that Q in order to perform Q.
I am disputing this. A person needs to desire-as-end that P and have a false belief that Q will bring about P, but this does not entail a desire-as-means that Q. We do not need to invent another entity to explain the agent's behavior. It is sufficient that he desire that P and falsely believes that Q will bring about P.
However, we do need to explain how an agent can give up on Q once she acquires true beliefs about Q's relationship to P. Telling the agent the truth about Q does not change her desires. She still wants the same things after being told that she wanted before being told. Only, now, she realizes that drinking the contents of the glass is not one of the things that she actually, really, wants.