Desires, Whims and Values

The Journal of Ethics 7 (3):315-335 (2003)
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Neo-Humean instrumentalists hold that an agent's reasons for acting are grounded in the agent's desires. Numerous objections have been leveled against this view, but the most compelling concerns the problem of "alien desires" - desires with which the agent does not identify. The standard version of neo-Humeanism holds that these desires, like any others, generate reasons for acting. A variant of neo-Humeanism that grounds an agent's reasons on her values, rather than all of her desires, avoids this implication, but at the cost of denying that we have reasons to act on innocent whims. A version of neo-Humeanism that holds that an agent has reason to satisfy all of her desires that are not in conflict with her values appears to allow us to grant the reason-giving force of innocent whims while denying the reason-giving force of alien desires.
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