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belief/desire thesis

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


P hilosophy of action A thesis that originated with Hume and provides an answer to the question what it is for an agent to have a reason to act. The thesis states that there are two factors that motivate us to act: desire and belief . Joining these two factors gives a sufficient condition for an agent to act in a certain way. However, Hume maintained that desire is an essentially motivating state, for it is internally related to motivation, but that belief motivates in a contingent way, because it can only fulfill its motivating function with the help of desire. The desire to drink a cup of water provides the motivational push but cannot determine whether the water is drinkable. This sort of information is supplied by belief, although belief does not have motive force in itself. Desires without beliefs are blind, and beliefs without desires are inert. There have been recent attempts to give alternatives to the belief/desire thesis as an account of motivation. “A complete motivating state – a state which is sufficient for action – must be a combination of belief and desire. This is the belief/desire thesis.” Dancy, Moral Reasons ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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