According to the cognitivist strategy, the desire to bring about P provides reasons for intending to bring about P in a way analogous to how perceiving that P provides reasons for believing that P. However, while perceiving P provides reasons for believing P by representing P as true, desiring to bring about P provides reasons for intending to bring about P by representing P as good. This paper offers an argument against this view. My argument proceeds via an appeal to what I call the non-substitutability of perception, the thesis that, given that there is no independent evidence for P, one cannot substitute something that fails to provide reasons with respect to P for the perceptual experience that P, without altering the rational permissibility of believing that P. By contrast, I argue that it is always possible to substitute something that fails to provide reasons for a desire without altering the rational permissibility of an intention based on said desire. I take this to show that a desire does not provide reasons in a way analogous to perceptual experience.
I argue that the concept of direction of fit is best seen as picking out a certain inferential property of a psychological attitude. The property in question is one that believing shares with assuming and fantasizing and fails to share with desire. Unfortunately, the standard analysis of direction of fit obscures this fact because it conflates two very different properties of an attitude: that in virtue of which it displays a certain direction of fit, and that in virtue of which it displays certain revision-conditions. I claim that the latter corresponds with the aim of an attitude, not its direction of fit. In order to remedy this failure of the standard analysis, I offer an alternative account of direction of fit, which I refer to as the two-content analysis.
My dissertation addresses the question “do desires provide reasons?” I present two independent lines of argument in support of the conclusion that they do not. The first line of argument emerges from the way I circumscribe the concept of a desire. Complications aside, I conceive of a desire as a member of a family of attitudes that have imperative content, understood as content that displays doability-conditions rather than truth-conditions. Moreover, I hold that an attitude may provide reasons only if it has truth-evaluable content. Insofar as desires lack truth-evaluable content, I hold that the content of a desire has the wrong kind of logical structure to provide reasons. My second line of argument claims that even if a desire did have truth-evaluable content, it would not follow that desires provide reasons. This is because a desire has no more rational significance than a guess or coin-flip. My argument relies on what I call the non-substitutability principle, the thesis that (all things being equal) one cannot substitute something that lacks rational significance, relative to some attitude, A, for something that has rational significance, relative to A, and leave the rational standing of A unchanged. For example, one cannot substitute the guess that P (i.e., something that lacks rational significance relative to the belief that P) for the perception that P (i.e., something that is rationally significant relative to the belief that P) without altering the rational standing of the belief. I argue that when the non-substitutability principle is applied to a desire that gives rise to an intention, it turns out that one can always substitute a guess or coin-flip (i.e., something that lacks rational significance relative to the intention) for the desire, without altering the rational standing of the intention. I take this to show that desires are not rationally significant relative to the intentions to which they give rise.
In his essay, “Knowledge and the Internal Revisited”, John McDowell claims that “seeing that p constitutes false-hood excluding justification for believing that p.” In this thesis I attempt to construct an account of perceptual knowledge that exploits McDowell’s notion of false-hood excluding justification. To this end, I limn a justified (strong) belief, or bipartite, account of perceptual knowledge in which justification is seen as factive. On this picture, the truth requirement of the traditional tripartite account is incorporated into the justification condition for knowledge. My account of perceptual knowledge is McDowellian in spirit, but not in detail. Specifically, I part ways with McDowell in my insistence that knowledge should be seen as a composite rather than primitive concept in which belief, understood as commitment to the truth of a proposition, and justification, understood as the possession of a factive reason, both figure.