Getting what you want
It is commonly accepted that if an agent wants p, then she has a desire that is satisfied in exactly the worlds where p is true. Call this the ‘Satisfaction-is-Truth Principle’. We argue that this principle is false: an agent may want p without having a desire that is satisfied when p obtains in any old way. For example, Millie wants to drink milk but does not have a desire that is satisfied when she drinks spoiled milk. Millie has a desire whose satisfaction conditions are what we call ways-specific. Fara (Philos Perspect 17(1):141–163, 2003, Noûs 47(2):250–272, 2013) and Lycan (Philos Perspect 26(1):201–215, 2012, In what sense is desire a propositional attitude?, Unpublished manuscript) have also argued for this conclusion, but their claims about desire satisfaction rest solely on contested intuitions about when agents get what they want. We set these intuitions to one side, instead arguing that desire satisfaction is ways-specific by appealing to the dispositional role of desire. Because agents are disposed to satisfy their desires, dispositions provide important evidence about desire satisfaction. Our argument also provides new insight on the dispositional role of desire satisfaction.
KeywordsDesire Dispositions Desire satisfaction Desires Ways-specificity of desire satisfaction Desire ascriptions Wanting Underspecification Fara Braun Lycan
We would like to thank Lauren Ashwell, David Boylan, David Braun, Alex Byrne, Nilanjan Das, Kai von Fintel, Cosmo Grant, David Gray Grant, Justin Khoo, Matthew Mandelkern, Ginger Schultheis, Kieran Setiya, Jack Spencer, Stephen Yablo, an audience at MIT, an anonymous reviewer, and each other.
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