University of Hertfordshire

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Whimsical Desires

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  • Tony Milligan
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-19
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2007


To desire is to want, but not necessarily to be disposed to do anything. That is to say, desiring does not necessarily involve having any disposition to act. To lend plausibility to this view I appeal to the example of whimsical desires that no action could help us to realise. What may lead us to view certain desires as whimsical is precisely the absence of any possibility of realizing them. While such desires might seem less than full-blooded, I argue that we can have full-blooded desires concerning such matters because of our (non-whimsical) concern for others. That is to say, whimsical desires can have a borrowed seriousness. The article goes on to strengthen the separability of dispositions and desires by narrowing down the concept of triggering conditions for a disposition. If we allow the triggering conditions to be too broad then it will always make sense to say that someone with a desire simply must have a disposition because, all other things being equal, they would bring about what they desire if they were able to do so.

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