Desire As Belief
Lewis (David)
Source: Lewis - Papers in Ethics and Social Philosophy
Paper - Abstract

Paper StatisticsBooks / Papers Citing this PaperColour-ConventionsDisclaimer

Author’s Introduction

  1. A Humean thesis about motivation says that we are moved entirely by desire: we are disposed to do what will serve our desires according to our beliefs. If there were no desires to serve, we would never be moved more to do one thing than another. Whatever might happen then would be entirely unmotivated. Here I shall uphold Humeanism against one sort of opponent.
  2. Our Anti-Humean challenges us with this case. The Department must choose between two candidates for a job, Meane and Neiss. Neiss is your old friend, affable, sensible, fair-minded, co-operative, moderate. Meane is quite the opposite. But it is clear that Meane is just a little bit better at philosophy. Gritting your teeth and defying all desire, you vote for Meane, because you believe that Meane getting the job instead of Neiss would, all things considered, be good. Your belief about what's good has moved you to go against your desire to have Neiss for a colleague and to have nothing to do with Meane.
  3. We Humeans reply that there are desires and there are desires. Some desires, for instance your desire to have Neiss for a colleague, are warm – you feel enthusiasm, you take pleasure in the prospect of fulfilment. Other desires, for instance your desire to hire the best available candidate, are cold. Nobody ever said that only the warm desires can move us. It is not so that you defied all desire when you voted for Meane. You were moved entirely by your desires, however the cold desire outweighed the warm one. We are within our rights to construe 'desire' inclusively, to cover the entire range of states that move us, including for instance the state that moved you to vote for Meane. Humeanism understood in this inclusive way is surely true – maybe a trivial truth, but a trivial truth is still a truth.


See "Lewis (David) - Desire As Belief II" for further thoughts.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

© Theo Todman, June 2007 - June 2020. Please address any comments on this page to File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this Page Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page Return to Theo Todman's Home Page