The Ockham Society (Friday - Week 7, MT18)

Ockham Society

Jay Jian (Balliol College) The Rational Irrelevance of Desire Strength

It is widely accepted that the more you desire something, the more it would be rational for you to pursue it. This idea is also often formulated in terms of the following principle: The Strength Principle: Rationality requires of you that you take the means to satisfy your strongest desire. In this paper, however, I am going to cast some doubt on the prescriptive force of the Strength Principle. I first distinguish between three alternative conceptions of desire strength: desire strength as the decision-theoretical notion of utility, as phenomenological intensity, and as motivating power. As I argue, desire strength as utility lacks prescriptive force because it tracks what we ended up choosing and pursuing, while desire strength as phenomenological intensity has derivative rational relevance only because it often indicates which desire can bring about greater pleasure within us.


Chair: Sean Costello 

Ockham Society Convenor: Charlotte Figueroa | Ockham Society Webpage