Motivation and desires

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis is above all concerned with the connection between desires and motivation. On the one hand, according to a widely accepted principle about desire, necessarily, desires are motivational states. Let us call this principle the motivational thesis. On the other hand, according to a well-established view of motivation, necessarily, motivation consists in desires coupled with related beliefs. In the desire-belief couple, desires are the motivationally efficacious states. This view is commonly known as the Humean view of motivation. The necessary connection between desires and motivation is taken for granted in most philosophical discussions. The primary aim of this thesis is to reject both of these views, and disentangle the alleged necessary connection between desires and motivation. To achieve this aim, the first half of the thesis is devoted to desires, and the second half to motivation. The focus of the first half of the thesis will be rejecting the motivational thesis by showing none of the mainstream views of the nature of desires, properly understood, lead to the thesis that desires must be motivational states. The second half of the thesis will be particularly focused on motivation. The Humean view of motivation will be challenged by showing that it is not the case that whenever we are motivated, we have a relevant motivating desire. I will also present a positive view of motivation by highlighting the role of affectivity in motivation. My proposal is that what agents are motivated to do, in any given situation, depends ultimately on what appears as most significant to them in that situation.
Date of Award1 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMichael Scott (Supervisor) & Thomas Smith (Supervisor)


  • Deontic view of desires
  • depression
  • desire satisfaction
  • caring
  • Humean view of motivation
  • nature of desires
  • desire
  • dispositionalism
  • motivation

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