In Praise of Desire

In Praise of Desire

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Joining the ancient debate over the roles of reason and appetite in the moral mind, In Praise of Desire takes the side of appetite. Acting for moral reasons, acting in a praiseworthy manner, and acting out of virtue amount to nothing more than acting out of intrinsic desires for the right or the good, correctly conceived.

Reason, understood as the power to deliberate about what to think and do, is shown not to be the basis for our ability to act for reasons. Reason is rather the ability to perform certain mental actions which help us to become settled about what to think or do, and these actions are in turn motivated by desire. Thus reason is, if not a slave of the passions, then at least a useful tool deployed by desiring agents.

If desire were merely an impulse to act, then a moral psychology built on intrinsic desires might be unpromising. But intrinsic desire is much more than an impulse to act. Intrinsic desires are a natural kind, states of the brain which contingently but commonly cause impulses to act, as well as causing a rich array of feelings and cognitive effects (on attention, learning, and more). Understood in this way, intrinsic desires are more central to agency, good will, and virtue than any mere
impulse could be.

In Praise of Desire shows that a desire-centered moral psychology can be richer than philosophers commonly think, accommodating the full complexity of moral life.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 336 pages
  • 164 x 241 x 33mm | 610g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0199348162
  • 9780199348169
  • 1,198,167

Table of contents

Contents ; Introduction ; 0.1 Moral Psychology ; 0.2 Reason and Appetite ; 0.3 Intrinsic, Instrumental, and Realizer Desires ; 0.4 The Many Guises of the Good ; 0.5 The Work to be Done ; Part I: Reason ; Chapter 1: Deliberation ; 1.1 The Nature of Deliberation ; 1.2 The Rationality of Acts of Deliberation ; 1.3 Deliberation and Regress ; 1.4 Other Objections ; 1.5 Deliberative Exceptionalism ; 1.6 Is there an Ambiguity? ; 1.7 If not Deliberation, Then Representation? ; 1.8 Thinking and Acting for Reasons without Deliberation ; Chapter 2: How Deliberation Works ; 2.1 The Role of Deliberation ; 2.2 How Deliberation Works ; 2.3 The Moral of the Story ; Chapter 3: Thinking and Acting for Reasons ; 3.1 Objective Reasons and Rationalizing Reasons ; 3.2 Physical Properties, Contents, and Reasons ; 3.3 Because of Reasons ; 3.4 Reasons, Causes, and Mountain Climbers ; 3.5 Acting for Bad Reasons ; 3.6 Thinking and Acting for Multiple Reasons and Non-Reasons ; 3.7 Habit and Inaction ; 3.8 Acting for Moral Reasons ; Part II: Desire ; Chapter 4: Love and Care ; 4.1 Love ; 4.2 Care ; Chapter 5: What Desires Are Not ; 5.1 Action is not the Essence of Desire ; 5.2 Feeling is not the Essence of Desire ; Chapter 6: What Desires Are ; 6.1 The Reward and Punishment Systems ; 6.2 The Reward System Causes what Desires Cause ; 6.3 Intrinsic Desires are a Natural Kind ; 6.4 Solutions and Promissory Notes ; Part III: Virtue ; Chapter 7: Credit and Blame ; 7.1 Attributability and Accountability ; 7.2 Good Will and Ill Will ; 7.3 A Theory of Praise- and Blameworthiness ; 7.4 Side Constraints ; 7.5 Conceptualization ; 7.6 Too Much Credit, Too Much Blame ; 7.7 Partial Good and Ill Will ; Chapter 8: Virtue ; 8.1 A Theory of Virtue ; 8.2 The Theory Applied ; 8.3 Virtues and Their Effects ; 8.4 Virtue and Involuntary Attitudes ; 8.5 Virtuous Irrationality ; 8.6 The Unity of the Virtues ; Chapter 9: Virtue and Cognition ; 9.1 Familiar Cognitive Effects of Desires ; 9.2 The Effects of Good Will on Cognition ; 9.3 The Vice of Being Prejudiced ; 9.4 The Vice of Being Close-Minded ; 9.5 The Virtue of Being Open-Minded ; 9.6 Modesty and Immodesty ; 9.7 Vicious Dreams ; Part IV: Puzzles ; Chapter 10: Inner Struggle ; 10.1 Akrasia ; 10.2 The Experience of Inner Struggle ; 10.3 Inner Struggle Explained ; Chapter 11: Addiction ; 11.1 The Puzzle ; 11.2 The Science of Addiction ; 11.3 The Philosophy of Addiction ; 11.4 The Blameworthiness of Addicts ; 11.5 Addiction in Moral Psychology ; Conclusion ; 12.1 Taking Stock ; 12.2 Looking Forward ; Works Cited ; Index
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Review quote

Praise of Desire combines Arpaly and Schroeder's great strengths to produce a book populated with engaging and naturalistic examples, argued with great systematic sophistication... The authors powerfully illuminate the nature and importance of the role played by the aspect under which we undertake actions in determining whether we count as responding fittingly to the situations in which we find ourselves and the amount of praise and blame due us for doing so. * Justin Jennings, Journal of Moral Philosophy * The great accomplishment of In Praise of Desire is that it shows that a robust theory of virtue and moral responsibility can be founded on a behavioral and neural basis. As such, it is an excellent contribution to moral psychology. * Polaris Koi, doctoral candidate in Philosophy at the University of Turku, Finland, Metapsychology * This book makes an important contribution to the literature supporting the kind of position the authors favour, but beyond that, virtually all the topics covered, whether or not structural parts of the authors larger argument, involve philosophically interesting discussions very much worth considering. * G.F. Schueler, Mind * ... pleasingly forthright and readable book ... As Arpaly and Schroeder say in their conclusion, their aim has been to spark a debate rather than provide a final theory. With its integration of considerations from ethics, philosophy of mind and the empirical science, this book provides an excellent beginning. * Richard Holton, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews Online * ... is a fantastic book. Its ambitions are high, its arguments are insightful and its prose is clear and crisp. I recommend it in the highest possible terms to anyone working on the intersections of moral psychology, philosophy of action, philosophy of mind, practical reason, and normative ethics * Ethics, January 2015 * ... I think the book is impressive, necessary reading for all moral psychologists and appropriate for a graduate (or sophisticated undergraduate) seminar on moral psychology. * David Shoemaker, Analysis *
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About Nomy Arpaly

Nomy Arpaly received her Ph.D. from Stanford University and is now Associate Professor of Philosophy at Brown University. She is the author of Unprincipled Virtue (OUP 2002) as well as Merit, Meaning, and Human Bondage (2006) and various articles.

Timothy Schroeder grew up on the Canadian prairies, an environment that afforded him plenty of time for philosophical speculation. He received his B.A. from the University of Lethbridge and his Ph.D. from Stanford University, and is now Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ohio State University.
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Rating details

12 ratings
3.83 out of 5 stars
5 33% (4)
4 25% (3)
3 33% (4)
2 8% (1)
1 0% (0)
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