Wanting Is Not Expected Utility

Journal of Philosophy 121 (4):229-244 (2024)
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Abstract

In this paper, I criticize Ethan Jerzak’s view that ‘want’ has only one sense, the mixed expected utility sense. First, I show that his appeals to ‘really’-locutions fail to explain away the counterintuitive predictions of his view. Second, I present a class of cases, which I call “principled indifference” cases, that pose difficulties for any expected utility lexical entry for ‘want’. I argue that in order to account for these cases, one needs to concede that ‘want’ has a sense, according to which wanting is a matter of subjectively preferring p-alternatives to not-p-alternatives. Finally, I introduce some considerations for and against the view that ‘want’ also has another sense, which is roughly synonymous with ‘need’.

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Tomasz Zyglewicz
CUNY Graduate Center

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