Finally i hope to articulate an attractive middle

This preview shows page 2 - 4 out of 27 pages.

Finally, I hope to articulate an attractive middle-position by showing that even granting Williams’ framework his argument only supports a somewhat weaker thesis: many lives would be intolerably boring if lived forever, and immortality does in fact present a unique risk to the desirability of living, but whether or not any particular life would come to the point of intolerable boredom is a contingent feature of certain identifiable broadly psychological features of a particular individual. 1. The Structure of Williams’ Argument To motivate his argument, Williams first draws our attention to a special kind of desire, which he calls a categorical desire. In ‘The Makropulos Case’ Williams gives a sort of rough-and-ready characterization of categorical desires, but he gives a much more thorough account of what categorical desires are in his paper ‘Persons, Character, and Morality’. The starting point is an account of why we ordinarily think of death as a bad thing: It might be wondered why, unless we believe in a possibly hostile after-life, or else are in a muddle which the Epicureans claimed to expose, we should regard death as an evil. One answer to that is that we desire certain things; if one desires something, then to that extent one has reason to resist the happening of anything which prevents one getting it, and death certainly does that, for a large range of desires (Williams 1981, 10). Here he posits that the reason we think of death as a bad thing is that it frustrates our desires. There are outcomes that we want to see realized, and death prevents those outcomes from being realized. Not all desires have that relation to death, however; I can have desires that are contingent upon my being alive. Imagine I have the desire that if I am to live into my nineties, I will continue to wear youthful clothing . This does not give me a reason to live, just as a desire that I eat food whenever I am hungry does 2
Image of page 2

Subscribe to view the full document.

[Redacted] not give me a reason to live, as it is contingent upon the prospect that I will be alive to experience hunger. Williams calls these conditional desires, and initially, he defines categorical desires by their contrast to conditional desires: Some desires are admittedly contingent on the prospect of one’s being alive, but not all desires can be in that sense conditional, since it is possible to imagine a person rationally contemplating suicide, in the face of some predicted evil, and if he decides to go on in life, then he is propelled forward into it by some desire (however general or inchoate) which cannot operate conditionally on his being alive, since it settles the question of whether he is going to be alive. Such a desire we may call a categorical desire (Williams 1981, 10-11). So desires I might have to care for my child, or to travel the world; these are the kinds of desires that give me reasons to be alive. It is only on the basis of categorical desires, Williams contends, that any person
Image of page 3
Image of page 4
  • Fall '11
  • BUNBURY
  • The Land, categorical desires

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern