Saturday, January 16, 2016

Motivational Force

While we are on the subject of 'motivational force'.

I do not see any evidence for motivational force to come out anything but desires.

A 'desire that P' gives an agent a motivating reason to realize P to a degree equal to the strength of the desire.

Desires, more specifically, provide the end-reasons for intentional action. Desires select our goals or objectives; that is, a desire that P creates a goal to realize a state of affairs in which 'P' is true.

Beliefs select the means for realizing these ends. If a person desires to be eating a chocolate cake, then a belief that there is chocolate cake in the kitchen gives the agent a motivating reason to go to the kitchen . . . in order to get the chocolate cake . . . which is the agent's goal or objective.

A belief can report motivational force.

So, you can report that people generally have motivating reasons to go and see the new "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" movie. One could do so by saying that it is a "good" movie. However, no motivational force comes from the belief that "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is a good movie. The motivational force comes solely from the desires that the belief reports would be fulfilled by experiencing the movie.

Moral goodness reports what people generally have reason to praise or condemn. Praise and condemnation act on the limbic system of the brain to mold malleable desires. They can be used to promote desires that tend to fulfill other desires, and inhibit desires that tend to thwart other desires. The motivating reason to praise or condemn come from the desires being fulfilled or thwarted. It does not come from the belief that something is morally good.

In fact, it is quite possible that an agent can have a belief that something is morally good - that it is something people generally have many and strong reasons to praise (or to condemn the absence) - without personally having a reason to do so.

However, moral claims are not solely claims about what people generally have reason to praise or condemn. Moral claims also contain the praise or condemnation that people generally have reason to give. Thus, "intentionally killing civilians to promote a political cause is wrong" not only expresses that it is something that people generally have reason to condemn. It also condemns those who would intentionally kill civilians.

Given this component of moral claims, an agent will tend to avoid reporting that an act is morally wrong unless the agent has a motivating reason to condemn it, or avoid claiming that something is morally good unless the agent has a motivating reason to praise it.

However, here, we are talking about a claim - a speech act. We are not talking about a belief. The belief entails no praise or condemnation - only the fact that people generally have many and strong reasons to praise or condemn. As an action, claiming that something is right or wrong may come from another of concerns; to impress others, to manipulate others, to deflect suspicions.

I take J.L. Mackie's "Argument from queerness" (which has been the subject of many recent posts) to be an argument that it would be "queer" for anything other than desires to provide end-reasons for intentional action. How can a belief provide an end-reason for intentional action (unless it reported a relationship between states of affairs and desires - in which case it reports on motivational force coming from desires and provides no motivational force of its own)? How can an action, or a state of affairs, or a hypothetical action or state of affairs, provide an end-reason for intentional action?

Desires provide end-reasons for states of affairs because this is the way they are programmed. Desires attach value to goals and motivates the agent to achieve that goal. The agent then searches among her beliefs for a way to reach the goal. It is, of course, a lot more complex than this. But these are the basics. This is the "massless strings and frictionless pulleys" account of intentional human action and motivational force.

The practical application of all of this is . . . if you are in a discussion with others about what should be done in a particular case, then the reasons for action that exist are desires.

This includes a moral dimension - reasons to promote certain desires that fulfill other desires and reasons to inhibit desires that thwart other desires- but these also relate back to desires.

If somebody in the discussion is bringing in "reasons for intentional action" that do not, ultimately, rest in desires that people generally have reason to promote or at least not inhibit - then that person is bringing fictions into the debate. Those "reasons" can be discarded as reasons for intentional action that do not exist.

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