Absolute value as belief
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In “Desire as Belief” and “Desire as Belief II,” David Lewis (1988, 1996) considers the anti-Humean position that beliefs about the good require corresponding desires, which is his way of understanding the idea that beliefs about the good are capable of motivating behavior. He translates this anti-Humean claim into decision theoretic terms and demonstrates that it leads to absurdity and contradiction. As Ruth Weintraub (2007) has shown, Lewis’ argument goes awry at the outset. His decision theoretic formulation of anti-Humeanism is one that no sensible anti-Humean would endorse. My aim is to demonstrate that Lewis’ infelicitous rendering of anti-Humeanism really does undermine the force of his arguments. To accomplish this, I begin by developing a more adequate decision theoretic rendering of the anti-Humean position. After showing that my formulation of anti-Humeanism constitutes a plausible interpretation of the anti-Humean thesis, I go on to demonstrate that if we adopt this more accurate rendition of anti-Humeanism, the view is no longer susceptible to arguments like the ones Lewis has devised. I thereby provide a more robust response to Lewis’ arguments than has yet been offered, and in the process I develop a formulation of anti-Humeanism that creates the possibility for future decision theoretic arguments that, unlike Lewis’, speak directly to the plausibility of anti-Humeanism.
KeywordsAnti-Humeanism David Lewis Decision theory Desire as belief
Thanks to James Joyce and two anonymous referees for their helpful comments and criticisms.
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