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How do emotional desires and intellectual judgments motivate actions?

Is desire merely feeling a physical or emotional urge to have or do something? Or is it an intellectual judgment that to have or do something would be good? Or is it the combination of the two of them? Many people seem to mean just the first (i.e. the physical or emotional urge) when speaking of desire: an intellectual judgment is neither necessary nor sufficient for desire. Yet they seem able to act on merely intellectual judgment. For example, people will say or think “I don’t want to take the trash out” or “I want to eat that entire cake” -- while nonetheless ttaking the trash out and refraining from eating the cake. In such cases, the emotional desire is opposite to the intellectual judgment. In such cases, is the action motivated purely by the intellectual judgment? Is emotional desire not required for action? Or is the intellectual judgment a kind of desire?

Eric Maughan , 23.06.2013, 11:15
Idea status: under consideration

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DianaHsieh, 26.06.2013, 08:10
Here's the original question, which I've tried to condense and clarify:

What is the proper meaning of the concept "desire" and how does this account for possible splits between intellectual conclusions and emotional/physical urges?

Can you elaborate on the concept of “desire”. In particular, how does the concept of “desire” relate to the following: (1) merely feeling a physical or emotional urge to have/do something, (2) merely intellectually concluding that having/doing something would be good, and (3) intellectually concluding that having/doing something would be good and feeling a physical or emotional urge to have/do the thing. Should there be different concepts for each of the above noted situations, as in the related case of Aristotle’s concepts of virtue, self-control, incontinence, vice etc. discussed in your 6/23/13 podcast, or are these all just different instances of the same basic phenomenon—“desire”. (For the rest of the question I will refer to the above three situations for convenience as emotionally/physically desiring only, intellectually desiring only, and emotionally/physically and intellectually desiring, respectively).

It seems to me that when people say they “want” or “desire” something they generally are considering emotional/physical desire as the necessary and sufficient component of “desire”, with intellectual desire being neither a necessary nor sufficient component of “desire”.

For example, people will say or think things such as “I don’t want to go to work today”, or “I don’t want to take the trash out” or “I want to eat that entire cake” etc., while nonetheless going to work, taking the trash out, and refraining from eating the cake. Clearly the hypothetical person must have been motivated in some way to go to work, take the trash out, and refrain from eating the cake, or they would not have taken these actions. Presumably, the motivation came from the intellectual conclusion that they needed to do/not do the respective things. Thus, what the person stated/thought was their “desire” was opposite of their intellectually conclusion.

Do you agree with my assessment that this is how many people use “want”/”desire”. Do you believe that such a usage (whether or not it is widespread) is correct? Does the nature of the thing desired make a difference as to what meaning is appropriate?

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