The problem of defective desires

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (4):487 – 504 (2005)
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The desire-satisfaction theory of welfare says, roughly, that one's life goes well to the extent that one's desires are satisfied. On standard 'actualist' versions of the theory, it doesn't matter what you desire. So long as you are getting what you actually want – whatever it is – things are going well for you. There is widespread agreement that these standard versions are incorrect, because we can desire things that are bad for us -– in other words, because there are 'defective desires'. The aim of this paper is to defend the actualist desire-satisfaction theory against the problem of defective desires. I aim to show how the theory can accommodate the obvious fact that we can desire things that are bad for us. Admittedly, there are kinds of allegedly defective desire the theory cannot accommodate, but these desires, I argue, turn out not to be defective in the relevant way.



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Chris Heathwood
University of Colorado, Boulder

Citations of this work

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Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Principia ethica.George Edward Moore - 1903 - Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications. Edited by Thomas Baldwin.
Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.
The methods of ethics.Henry Sidgwick - 1874 - Bristol, U.K.: Thoemmes Press. Edited by Emily Elizabeth Constance Jones.

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