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Moral Psychology and Human AgencyPhilosophical Essays on the Science of Ethics$
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Justin D'Arms and Daniel Jacobson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198717812

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198717812.001.0001

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The Reward Theory of Desire in Moral Psychology

The Reward Theory of Desire in Moral Psychology

Chapter:
(p.186) 9 The Reward Theory of Desire in Moral Psychology
Source:
Moral Psychology and Human Agency
Author(s):

Timothy Schroeder

Nomy Arpaly

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198717812.003.0009

A moral psychology that would put intrinsic desires at the heart of its theorizing faces a familiar sort of challenge. It is said that intrinsic desires are nothing but behavioral dispositions of a sophisticated sort. If this is right, then it seems hard to distinguish intrinsic desires from the impulses of addicts, of people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, and so on, yet no one would imagine that such disordered impulses are good models of what explains morally motivated action, praiseworthiness, love, or other moral-psychological phenomena. In this chapter, we describe a different theory of intrinsic desires. On our theory, the reward theory of desire, intrinsic desires turn out to be a common ground of behavioral dispositions, dispositions to feel, and dispositions cognize in ways commonly associated with having intrinsic desires. But intrinsic desires are not identified with any of these effects. The reward theory of desire thus holds out hope that intrinsic desires can be distinguished from the disordered states that mimic their effects on behavior, and so hope of rescuing a desire-centered moral psychology from these familiar challenges.

Keywords:   moral psychology, desire, reward, motivation, pleasure, attention, learning, love, care

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