Friday, June 01, 2018

On Desire 2018. Part 23: Against Evaluativism Generally

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.

Finally, Döring and Eker turn their attention to evaluativism generally. They seek to look at the Radioman case in more detail and show that it does not provide as much reason to embrace some form of emotivism as is typically believed.

Recall that the Radioman case addresses the thesis that desires can be understood in terms of dispositions to act. Radioman is given a disposition to act – a disposition to turn on radios within reach. At the same time, he does not evaluate the turning on of radios to be good in any way. He does not consider it good in itself, and he values none of the consequences of turning on radios. It is simply something that he does – something that he is disposed to do whenever he is near a radio. The objection states that it is bizarre to claim that Radioman has a desire to turn on radios. Having a desire to turn on the radios requires evaluating the turning on of radios to be good.

Against this argument, Döring and Eker claim that desires are supposed to rationalize (make rational) intentional action – it makes it the case that the act is rational or makes sense.

Even if we add an evaluative component to Radioman’s disposition to turn on radios, it still does not make much sense. Yet something more is needed to rationalize the action. They want to distinguish desires from compulsive urges, and they do so by means of referring to the relationship that the disposition to turn on radios has to other facts.

It seem plausible, for instance, that the desiderative dispositional profile necessary includes, roughly, dispositions to form long-term intentions to achieve the object of the desire, to integrate such intentions into more general and complex plans the agent already has, and to form agential policies that encode general patterns of action in certain specific situations.

If the disposition to act has these qualities, then it is a desire. If not, then it is a compulsive urge, quite distinct from a desire.

To me, this seems like a distinction without a difference. I would call both of these entities “desires”. One is a desire that has particular connections to long-term plans and is integrated well with the other things the agent also desires. The other is a desire that is isolated from and, perhaps, in conflict with the agent’s other desires. One is like the desire to go to law school. The other is like the desire to smoke. Both are desires – just desires with different qualities.

This means that the dispute is purely semantic – a dispute about how we are going to use our terms. On this measure, I hold that, with so much work done with the belief-desire model of intentional action, it is better to keep with that dichotomy than to try to rewrite action theory in terms of a belief-desire-wish-compulsive urge-and whatever else one can think of model. That is the language that I wish to continue to use.

No comments: