Philosophical Studies

, Volume 165, Issue 3, pp 975-988

First online:

Appetitive besires and the fuss about fit

  • Steven SwartzerAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy/Center for the Teaching and Study of Applied Ethics, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Email author 

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Some motivational cognitivists believe that there are besires—cognitive mental states (typically moral beliefs) that share the key feature of desire (typically desire’s ‘direction of fit’) in virtue of which they are capable of being directly motivational. Besires have been criticized by Humeans and cognitivists alike as philosophically extravagant, incoherent, ad hoc, and incompatible with folk psychology. I provide a response to these standard objections to besires—one motivated independently of common anti-Humean intuitions about the motivational efficacy of moral judgments. I proceed by examining a hypothesis about the nature of appetitive desires—that these paradigmatic motivational attitudes are a mode of perceptual experience—and argue that this hypothesis is committed to the existence of besires. However, despite its commitment to besires, this hypothesis is not extravagant, incoherent, ad hoc, or incompatible with folk psychology. In other words, the standard complaints about besires all fail. The upshot is that there is nothing bizarre about besires, and motivational cognitivism takes on no additional costs by positing them.


Appetitive desire Besires Direction of fit Humean theory of motivation Motivational cognitivism