Chapter

Sources of the Desire/Belief Thesis

Rüdiger Bittner

in Doing Things for Reasons

Published in print August 2001 | ISBN: 9780195143645
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833085 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195143647.003.0002
Sources of the Desire/Belief Thesis

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Explores the ancestry of the desire‐belief‐theory. It is generally assumed to derive from David Hume's conception, epitomized in his statement that the impulse for action does not arise from reason, but is only directed by it. In fact, though, this view is not credibly supported by argument and must rest, rather, on traditional assumptions. Their source is Plato: the doctrine of the soul in Phaedrus expounds, contrary to many scholars’ opinion, essentially the understanding of action that we are familiar with from Hume. What made this understanding of action attractive becomes also apparent in considering Plato: if reason gives desire direction, there can be action in accordance with what there is. Nevertheless we should drop the idea: it brings with it domination within the soul.

Keywords: action; belief; desire; domination; Hume; Phaedrus; Plato; soul

Chapter.  9714 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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