Scanlon on Desire and the Explanation of Action

Michael Smith

in Reasons and Recognition

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199753673
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918829 | DOI:
Scanlon on Desire and the Explanation of Action

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T. M. Scanlon claims that insofar as ’having a desire’ is understood as a state that is distinct from ’seeing something as a reason,’ it plays almost no role in the justification and explanation of action. Since in the standard story of action desire is understood as a behavioral disposition, and since in that story every action is explained by desire, so understood, and since a desire so understood is a distinct state from seeing something as a reason, it follows that Scanlon sets himself against the standard story of action. In my paper I begin by explaining the attractions of the standard story of action and then I examine Scanlon’s reasons for thinking that desire, understood in the way in which it is in that story, plays almost no role in the explanation of action.

Keywords: Scanlon; Hume; desire; want; like; reason; explanation; justification

Chapter.  10434 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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