Its Role in Practical Reason and the Explanation of Action

Does action always arise out of desire? G.F. Schueler examines this hotly debated topic in philosophy of action and moral philosophy, arguing that once two senses of "desire" are distinguished—roughly, genuine desires and pro attitudes—apparently plausible explanations of action in terms of the agent's desires can be seen to be mistaken.

Desire probes a fundamental issue in philosophy of mind, the nature of desires and how, if at all, they motivate and justify our actions. At least since Hume argued that reason "is and of right ought to be the slave of the passions," many philosophers have held that desires play an essential role both in practical reason and in the explanation of intentional action. G.F. Schueler looks at contemporary accounts of both roles in various belief-desire models of reasons and explanation and argues that the usual belief-desire accounts need to be replaced.

Schueler contends that the plausibility of the standard belief-desire accounts rests largely on a failure to distinguish "desires proper," like a craving for sushi, from so-called "pro attitudes," which may take the form of beliefs and other cognitive states as well as desires proper. Schueler's "deliberative model" of practical reasoning suggests a different view of the place of desire in practical reason and the explanation of action. He holds that we can arrive at an intention to act by weighing the relevant considerations and that these may not include desires proper at all.

A Bradford Book

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Introduction
  3. 1. What Are Desires?
  4. 2. Desires as Justifying Reasons, Part I:
  5. 3. Desires as Justifying Reasons, Part II:
  6. 4. Desires in the Explanation of Actions: Part 1, Desires as Causes of Action
  7. 5. Desires in the Explanation of Actions: Part 2, Intentional-Stance Explanations and Background Desires
  8. 6. Two Models of Desire/Belief Explanation
  9. Notes
  10. References
  11. Index