Getting what you want

Philosophical Studies 177 (7):1791-1810 (2020)
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It is commonly accepted that if an agent wants p, then she has a desire that is satisfied in exactly the worlds where p is true. Call this the ‘Satisfaction-is-Truth Principle’. We argue that this principle is false: an agent may want p without having a desire that is satisfied when p obtains in any old way. For example, Millie wants to drink milk but does not have a desire that is satisfied when she drinks spoiled milk. Millie has a desire whose satisfaction conditions are what we call ways-specific. Fara (2003, 2013) and Lycan (2012, ms) have also argued for this conclusion, but their claims about desire satisfaction rest solely on contested intuitions about when agents get what they want. We set these intuitions to one side, instead arguing that desire satisfaction is ways-specific by appealing to the dispositional role of desire. Because agents are disposed to satisfy their desires, dispositions provide important evidence about desire satisfaction. Our argument further provides new insight on the dispositional role of desire satisfaction.

Author Profiles

Milo Phillips-Brown
Oxford University
Lyndal Grant
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


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