On Essentially Conflicting Desires

The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 59, pp. 274-291, 2009

26 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2011

See all articles by Patricia Marino

Patricia Marino

University of Waterloo - Department of Philosophy

Date Written: December 1, 2007


It is sometimes argued that having inconsistent desires is irrational or otherwise bad for an agent. If so, if agents seem to want a and not-a, then either their attitudes are being misdescribed – what they really want is some aspect x of a and some aspect y of not-a – or those desires are somehow ‘inconsistent’ and thus inappropriate. I argue first that the proper characterization of inconsistency here does not involve logical form, that is, whether the desires involved have the form ‘a and not-a’, but rather the possibility of fulfilling all one’s desires; and secondly, that the ‘essential’ conflicts involved in such inconsistencies are quite common and no worse for an agent than contingent conflicts. I draw implications concerning moral epistemology, moral realism and the logic of attitudes.

Keywords: desires, conflicting desires, dilemmas, ambivalence

Suggested Citation

Marino, Patricia, On Essentially Conflicting Desires (December 1, 2007). The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 59, pp. 274-291, 2009, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1968598

Patricia Marino (Contact Author)

University of Waterloo - Department of Philosophy ( email )

200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1

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