The verdictive organization of desire

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 47 (5):589-612 (2017)
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Deliberation often begins with the question ‘What do I want to do?’ rather than the question of what one ought to do. This paper takes that question at face value, as a question about which of one’s desires is strongest, which sometimes guides action. The paper aims to explain which properties of a desire make that desire strong, in the sense of ‘strength’ relevant to this deliberative question. Both motivational force and phenomenological intensity seem relevant to a desire’s strength; however, accounting for the strength of a desire in these terms opens up significant indeterminacy about what we want. The paper argues that this indeterminacy is often resolved simply by posing the question ‘What do I want to do?’ to oneself: there is reason to believe that one’s answer will play a verdictive role, partially determining what the agent most wants. Self-reflective beliefs can play a self-fulfilling role, and surprisingly this seems to follow from basic platitudes about the belief-desire model.
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First archival date: 2016-12-12
Latest version: 2 (2017-04-21)
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