SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

The Vagueness of Desires
(Ethics, )

A Desire-Satisfactionism claims that all and only A's episodes of desire satisfaction are constitutive for A's well-being. It is astonishing to see that most proponents of Desire-Satisfactionism of well-being say very little about the concept of desire. One promising concept is the pleasure-based concepts of desire. Pleasure-based concept of desire: A desires p iff if A was in conditions C, A would feel pleasure. I will argue that the pleasure-based concept (and other similar accounts) faces a problem because of the underspecified conditions C, and I will present a solution for this problem. For good reasons, these conditions C often include A representing p to herself. Some philosophers have proposed to include some strong idealisations for the representation of p. If we use such idealisations, we will end up with an alienating concept of well-being. It might turn out that my idealised self would find some represented states of affairs pleasurable that I would find utterly repugnant if actually realised. On the other hand, if there is no idealisation, there still has to be some condition C under which A has to represent p to herself. Now, it seems that A could represent p to herself more or less detailed or vivid and these differences in representation might make a difference in whether she feels pleasure representing p to herself. To go to an extreme, I do not see a reason why it should not be the case that for all conditions C it is true that the representation of p is pleasurable or unpleasurable for A under conditions C but just the opposite, so unpleasurable or pleasurable, respectively, under the slightly more or less idealised conditions C'. In other words, it seems unacceptably ad hoc to settle for one specific condition or a specific range of conditions. So, the concept of desire is either unacceptably ad hoc or leads to an alienating concept of well-being. I claim that a relatively unidealised concept of desire that explicitly allows vagueness can solve this problem: Vague pleasure-based concept of desire: A desires p with strength s iff for all worlds of a vague range of worlds R in which A represents p to herself, A feels an average amount of pleasure s. I will argue that the vague pleasure-based concept of desire is neither unacceptably ad hoc nor leads to an alienating concept of well-being.

Chair: Stephen Müller
Time: 10:40-11:10, 11 September 2021 (Saturday)
Location: SR 1.004
Remark: (Online Talk)

Thorsten Helfer  
(Saarland University, )



Testability and Meaning deco