Sunday, May 27, 2018

On Desire 2018. Part 20: Resurrection of Desire

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.

When I considered Graham Oddie’s (2017) paper, I wrote about “the death of desire” – the idea that “a desire for S must vanish once one comes to believe that S already obtains.” I objected to that thesis then, just as I objected to it above. However, some of the comments I found in Doring and Eker suggested a second way of looking at the claim.

Döring and Eker distinguish desires from wishes. A wish (which is not a desire) applies to states that one cannot change through action. What is currently the case is like a wish in that it cannot be changed. So, what is currently the case cannot be desired.

From this perspective, the question of whether wishes are desires is like the question of whether Pluto is a planet.

It is not a question that can be settled in a laboratory.

We could try conceptual analysis. Though, astronomers certainly rejected that option; Pluto had been called a planet since its discovery. Instead, they argued that it was more important that like be classified with like. Pluto was more like a Kuiper Belt Object than a planet, so the International Astronomical Union altered its definitions to classify like with like.

Philosophers do not have anything like the International Astronomical Union to take a vote on the matter. We need to negotiate some sort of agreement.

From this perspective, I cannot argue that the death of desire thesis is false, any more than I can argue that the “Pluto is a planet” thesis is false. We can debate the findings of conceptual analysis, but even this does not settle the issue. If the conceptual analysis goes against me, I can still, like the astronomers, argue that those concepts are clumsy and in need of revision. They could make the same arguments against me.

In short, against Döring and Eker, my previous response to the death of desire fails because it assumes that the concept of desire is "settled" - and settled in my favor at that. I hold that wishes are desires. Döring and Eker hold that wishes - and anything else that assigns value to something that intentional action cannot change - are not desires. Is Pluto a planet? Or is Pluto not a planet?

In these writings, I am going to stick with the idea that wishes are desires. All affective states that assign motivational value to the realization of a proposition are desires. I am going to hold with Oddie’s suggestion that a desire that P where one believes that P is true is a satisfied desire. I would distinguish this from a fulfilled desire, where P is actually true.

No comments: