Sunday, May 13, 2018

On Desire 2018. Part 01: The Two Dogmas of Desire

My summer project for the summer of 2018 hereby begins.

I will be reading through:

Federico Lauria; Julien A Deonna (eds), The Nature of Desire, New York, NY : Oxford University Press, [2017]. This is a collection of articles on . . . well . . . on the nature of desire. This will figure into a chapter of my thesis having to with . . . um . . . the nature of desire.

I will be writing commentary as I go through the articles. This is my way of keeping notes.

One of the contributors to this anthology is University of Colorado Philosophy professor Graham Oddie - who will likely be on my dissertation committee.

The first item discussed in the introduction to the anthology is the two conceptions of desire.

There is the motivational conception; desires are motives to do something.

And there is the evaluative conception; desires consist in perceiving certain states as good (and, thereby, motivating the agent to realize such a state).

Within desirism, I have tended to defend the first of these conceptions. There is no "good" to be perceived in the second sense - no value living out there in the world. There are only (evolved or learned) dispositions to realize or prevent the realization of certain states of affairs. We like high-calorie, high-cholesterol food because our ancestors who liked it lived longer and had more children than those who did not. We have an aversion to pain because evolution favored ancestors with an aversion to pain. There is no independent "good" to be perceived.

So, I am going to be siding with the motivational theorists and against the evaluative theorists.

Oops . . . Graham Oddie is an evaluative theorist.

But he apparently defends an evaluative theory that is consistent with the denial that values exist in the world independent of the mind. His view is agnostic between the claim that we have simply evolved to see certain states of affairs as good - that, in a sense, we evolved to perceive this illusion of goodness, or whether this goodness actually exists.

A quick note: This summary may not fit Oddie's work. I have only begun his article in the anthology, so I cannot yet report on it reliably.

Still, I will be given an opportunity to test one of the core claims of desirism, that a desire that P is a mental state that motivates the agent to act so as to make or keep true the proposition 'P'. This, I take it, is a motivational state theory.

By the time this summer is done, I should have a pretty good understanding of desires, which should fit nicely into my thesis.

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