Two Philosophies of Needs

Polish Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):33-50 (2015)
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Instrumentalists about need believe that all needs are instrumental, i.e., ontologically dependent upon ends, goals or purposes. Absolutists view some needs as non-instrumental. The aims of this article are: clearly to characterize the instrumentalism/absolutism debate that is of concern (mainly §1); to establish that both positions have recent and current adherents (mainly §1); to bring what is, in comparison with prior literature, a relatively high level of precision to the debate, employing some hitherto neglected, but important, insights (passim); to show, on grounds not previously to the fore in the literature, that insofar as instrumentalism’s advocates have provided arguments for the position, these are unsound (§2); to argue against instrumentalism using a new dilemma concerning whether ‘end’, ‘goal’ and ‘purpose’ are interpreted in a mentalistic manner (§3); to elucidate the implications of the needs/need-satisfiers and preconditions/means distinctions for the debate (§4).

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Stephen K. McLeod
University of Liverpool


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