Attraction, Aversion, and Meaning in Life

Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (forthcoming)
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Desire comes in two kinds: attraction and aversion. But contemporary theories of desire have paid little attention to the distinction, and some philosophers doubt that it is psychologically real. I argue that one reason to think there is a difference between the attitudes, and to care about it, is that attractions and aversions contribute in radically different ways to our well-being. Attraction-motivated activity adds to the good life in a way that aversion-driven activity doesn’t. I argue further that the value of attraction-motivated activity is irreducible to the prudential value of pleasure or desire-satisfaction. Rather it contributes in a distinctive way to the felt meaningfulness of life. In the end I offer a hypothesis: when we are attracted to something, we see it as (non-comparatively) good; and it is only when we pursue the apparent good that we see ourselves as engaged with value that makes our lives and the universe worth maintaining.

Author's Profile

Alisabeth Ayars
University of British Columbia


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