Irrational desires

Philosophical Studies 62 (1):23 - 44 (1991)
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Many believe that the rational evaluation of actions depends on the rational evaluation of even basic desires. Hume, though, viewed desires as "original existences" which cannot be contrary to either truth or reason. Contemporary critics of Hume, including Norman, Brandt and Parfit, have sought a basis for the rational evaluation of desires that would deny some basic desires reason-giving force. I side with Hume against these modern critics. Hume's concept of rational evaluation is admittedly too narrow; even basic desires are, despite their nonrepresentational nature, subject to rational evaluation. But this evaluation is not relevant to their tendency to generate reasons for action, and does not undermine the spirit of the Humean view of rational action.

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Donald Hubin
Ohio State University


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