Tuesday, July 03, 2018

On Desire 2018. Part 60: Crazy and Evil Desires

How could the mere fact that I have some goal, just by itself, make it the case that I should do what I can to achieve that goal? What if the goal is evil or just wacky?

(Schueler, G.E., (2017), “Deliberation and Desire” In Deonna J. & Lauria F. (eds). The Nature of Desire. Oxford University Press. (Referencing Broome, John, 2005, "Does Rationality Give Us Reasons?" Philosophical Issues, 15, 321-337.)

If you have some goal, it follows that you should try to achieve it. Or, in other words, every desire that P provides the agent with a reason to realize any state of affairs in which 'P' is true. Identifying the 'desire that P' as evil or "just wacky" requires determining its relationship to other desires. No desire is evil or wacky just on its own - by itself.

When a desire comes into conflict with others, there is nothing that identifies by default which desire to identify as 'evil' or 'wacky' - it will be the one that there is the most and strongest reason to get rid of. In other words. In the case of "evil" the other goals with which it comes into conflict are not other goals of the agent. "Evil" identifies conflicts between a goal and the goals (desires) of other agents - desires that give others reason to condemn the interest identified s "evil". "Wacky," on the other hand, may refer to desires or goals that conflict with other goals the agent has. (Though, actually, I would expect "wacky" to actually tend to refer to the beliefs that determine the relationship of doing A to ends, rather than the ends themselves).

Before going any further, I should give this discussion some context. As I mentioned in our last exciting episode, we are working with Audi's account of practical reasoning:

(1) Major Premise—the motivational premise: I want phi
(2) Minor Premise—the cognitive (instrumental) premise: My A-ing would contribute to realizing phi
(3) Conclusion—the practical judgment: I should A.

I have accepted the possibility that Premise 1 can be false. I then argued that the "should" conclusion that one reaches through this type of reasoning comes with no motivational force unless either Premise (1) is true or the agent has some other desire that may be motivating her to do A.

When Schueler looks at the claim that a goal provides somebody with a reason to act, Schueler is including under the term "goal" a false Premise (1) in an Audian practical syllogism. This is because Schueler (falsely) believes that we have the capacity to act on the conclusion reached through such a syllogism even when premise (1) is false and the agent has no other reason to A. This means that Premise (1) can be a goal that motivates action even when it is not associated with a desire.

On this matter, I would say that if premise (1) is false, then it provides no reason for the agent to perform the action and, indeed, the agent will have no motivation to perform the action except under the terms and conditions I have already described.

In contrast, when I say that a goal, just by itself, can make it the case that the agent has a reason to do A, I am not talking about a possibly false premise (1). I am talking about a desire - the actual motivating force. Once one has an actual goal - a desire - then . . . yes, it is true, if one has a goal then one has a reason to act, regardless of how evil or wacky the goal may be.

No comments: