Tuesday, May 29, 2018

On Desire 2018. Part 21: Desires as Explanatory Entities

Continuing on with: Doring, Sabine A. and Bahadir Eker (2017), “Desires Without Guises.” In Deonna J. & Lauria F. (eds). The Nature of Desire. Oxford University Press.

Before raising objections to the evaluative theory of desires, Döring and Eker, attempt to motivate evaluativism by presenting an argument in its defense. This, they do quite well.

First, it explains intentional action, not as a mere event, but as a special kind of event. Intentional action seeks an end, and seeks to bring it about by selecting the effective means.

The action is not something that simply happens to the agent but, rather, something that is performed by the agent. . . . Intentional actions are purposeful and goal-oriented; they are performed with a purpose in mind and some sense of how to achieve that purpose – they are, in short, actions performed for a reason.

I mentioned this above in response to Döring and Eker’s own theory of desire – D1. Their account did not seem to answer the question of “why” the agent acted – only that an agent is disposed to act in a particular way. We will get to the authors’ answer to this challenge in a later section.

Second, a theory of desires explains the rationality of (reasons for) intentional action.

An intentional action is motivated by a desire of the agent that encodes a goal, but if such behavior is to be considered rational (even in the aforementioned minimal sense), desires must, so the story goes, also involve an evaluation of that goal as something worth pursuing.

This is a feature of desires that I have not addressed much in this series. Desires provide end-reasons for intentional actions. They are intimately concerned with the rationality of action and the rationality of the agent herself.

As Döring and Eker describe their opponents, they hold that the Evaluationists say that this requires that the object of desire be given some value, that there be some reason to pursue that end, and that the dispositional theorists do not provide this. According to the dispositionists, a desire simply reports THAT the agent is disposed to realize some end without explaining (or accounting for) why they pursue that end. The evaluationist explains this by saying that the agent sees some value in the end.

This, then, is the challenge that Döring and Eker sought to meet. The plan at this point will be to show that both of the key Evaluationist theories are problematic, and then to criticize the argument given to motivate the Evaluationist argument.

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