Philosophical Studies

, Volume 173, Issue 7, pp 1735–1754 | Cite as

Probabilistic promotion revisited

  • Jeff Behrends
  • Joshua DiPaoloEmail author


Promotion is the relation between an act and a desire that obtains when the act advances or serves the desire. Under what conditions does an act promote a desire? Probabilistic accounts of promotion, the most prominent accounts, analyze promotion in terms of an increase in the probability of the desire’s satisfaction. In this paper, we clarify the promotion relation and explain why probabilistic accounts are attractive. Then we identify two questions probabilistic accounts must answer: the Baseline Question and the Interpretation Question. We discuss and reject the three answers to the Baseline Question found in the literature, and explain the challenge future attempts at answering this question will face. Proponents of probabilistic accounts have not adequately addressed the Interpretation Question. We survey three answers to this question, finding each unsatisfactory. We conclude that no satisfactory probabilistic account has yet been offered, and that there are significant hurdles to providing one in the future.


Promotion Reasons Instrumental reasons Desire satisfaction Probability 



We are very grateful to John Basl, Eden Lin, Chris Meacham, Gina Schouten, and an anonymous reviewer for this journal for reading an earlier draft of this paper, and for providing extremely helpful comments. DiPaolo’s work on this paper was made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation. DiPaolo would also like to thank Saint Louis University and its Department of Philosophy for their funding and support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Illinois State UniversityNormalUSA
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Massachusetts, AmherstAmherstUSA
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophySaint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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