We adjudicate a recent dispute concerning the desire theory of well-being. Stock counterexamples to the desire theory include “quirky” desires that seem irrelevant to well-being, such as the desire to count blades of grass. Bruckner (2016) claims that such desires are relevant to well-being, provided that the desirer can characterize the object in such a way that makes it clear to others what attracts the desirer to it. Lin (2016) claims that merely being attracted to the object of one’s desire should be sufficient for it to be relevant to one’s well-being. The capacity to characterize the desire as Bruckner requires does no work in the explanation of the welfare-relevance of the desire, Lin claims, especially since Lin’s account and Bruckner’s account are extensionally equivalent. In response, we provide a conceptual analysis of desire based on conceptual role semantics. Our analysis shows the plausibility of and motivation for Bruckner’s account. As well, it shows that the extensional equivalence of the accounts is no accident, but due to what it is to have a desire. Lin has not succeeded in providing an alternative to Bruckner’s account, but merely reformulated it, though in an illuminating way that supports Bruckner’s original case.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes