In Praise of Desire

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 12/13/2013
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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Joining the ancient debate over the roles of reason and appetite in the moral mind, In Praise of Desire takes the side of appetite. Acting for moral reasons, acting in a praiseworthy manner, and acting out of virtue amount to nothing more than acting out of intrinsic desires for the right or the good, correctly conceived.

Reason, understood as the power to deliberate about what to think and do, is shown not to be the basis for our ability to act for reasons. Reason is rather the ability to perform certain mental actions which help us to become settled about what to think or do, and these actions are in turn motivated by desire. Thus reason is, if not a slave of the passions, then at least a useful tool deployed by desiring agents.

If desire were merely an impulse to act, then a moral psychology built on intrinsic desires might be unpromising. But intrinsic desire is much more than an impulse to act. Intrinsic desires are a natural kind, states of the brain which contingently but commonly cause impulses to act, as well as causing a rich array of feelings and cognitive effects (on attention, learning, and more). Understood in this way, intrinsic desires are more central to agency, good will, and virtue than any mere impulse could be.

In Praise of Desire shows that a desire-centered moral psychology can be richer than philosophers commonly think, accommodating the full complexity of moral life.

Author Biography

Nomy Arpaly received her Ph.D. from Stanford University and is now Associate Professor of Philosophy at Brown University. She is the author of Unprincipled Virtue (OUP 2002) as well as Merit, Meaning, and Human Bondage (2006) and various articles.

Timothy Schroeder grew up on the Canadian prairies, an environment that afforded him plenty of time for philosophical speculation. He received his B.A. from the University of Lethbridge and his Ph.D. from Stanford University, and is now Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ohio State University.

Table of Contents


0.1 Moral Psychology
0.2 Reason and Appetite
0.3 Intrinsic, Instrumental, and Realizer Desires
0.4 The Many Guises of the Good
0.5 The Work to be Done

Part I: Reason
Chapter 1: Deliberation
1.1 The Nature of Deliberation
1.2 The Rationality of Acts of Deliberation
1.3 Deliberation and Regress
1.4 Other Objections
1.5 Deliberative Exceptionalism
1.6 Is there an Ambiguity?
1.7 If not Deliberation, Then Representation?
1.8 Thinking and Acting for Reasons without Deliberation

Chapter 2: How Deliberation Works
2.1 The Role of Deliberation
2.2 How Deliberation Works
2.3 The Moral of the Story

Chapter 3: Thinking and Acting for Reasons
3.1 Objective Reasons and Rationalizing Reasons
3.2 Physical Properties, Contents, and Reasons
3.3 Because of Reasons
3.4 Reasons, Causes, and Mountain Climbers
3.5 Acting for Bad Reasons
3.6 Thinking and Acting for Multiple Reasons and Non-Reasons
3.7 Habit and Inaction
3.8 Acting for Moral Reasons

Part II: Desire
Chapter 4: Love and Care
4.1 Love
4.2 Care

Chapter 5: What Desires Are Not
5.1 Action is not the Essence of Desire
5.2 Feeling is not the Essence of Desire

Chapter 6: What Desires Are
6.1 The Reward and Punishment Systems
6.2 The Reward System Causes what Desires Cause
6.3 Intrinsic Desires are a Natural Kind
6.4 Solutions and Promissory Notes

Part III: Virtue
Chapter 7: Credit and Blame
7.1 Attributability and Accountability
7.2 Good Will and Ill Will
7.3 A Theory of Praise- and Blameworthiness
7.4 Side Constraints
7.5 Conceptualization
7.6 Too Much Credit, Too Much Blame
7.7 Partial Good and Ill Will

Chapter 8: Virtue
8.1 A Theory of Virtue
8.2 The Theory Applied
8.3 Virtues and Their Effects
8.4 Virtue and Involuntary Attitudes
8.5 Virtuous Irrationality
8.6 The Unity of the Virtues

Chapter 9: Virtue and Cognition
9.1 Familiar Cognitive Effects of Desires
9.2 The Effects of Good Will on Cognition
9.3 The Vice of Being Prejudiced
9.4 The Vice of Being Close-Minded
9.5 The Virtue of Being Open-Minded
9.6 Modesty and Immodesty
9.7 Vicious Dreams

Part IV: Puzzles
Chapter 10: Inner Struggle
10.1 Akrasia
10.2 The Experience of Inner Struggle
10.3 Inner Struggle Explained

Chapter 11: Addiction
11.1 The Puzzle
11.2 The Science of Addiction
11.3 The Philosophy of Addiction
11.4 The Blameworthiness of Addicts
11.5 Addiction in Moral Psychology

12.1 Taking Stock
12.2 Looking Forward

Works Cited


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