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Bence Nanay: Desire Infection

Lecture by Bence Nanay (University of Antwerp and Peterhouse, Cambridge) organised by the Department of Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

Desire Infection

Some of our beliefs are based on what we see. But some others are based on what I have heard from someone else. These beliefs are based on testimony. The aim of this paper is to explore the equivalent of testimony for desires – a phenomenon I call ‘desire infection’.

The aim of the paper is to argue that the vast majority of our desires come about by desire infection – just like the vast majority of our beliefs come about by testimony. But a crucial difference between the belief and the desire case is that while we have a pretty good defence mechanism against false beliefs that we acquire by testimony (if a belief we acquired by testimony blatantly contradicts a lot of our other beliefs, we reject it and possibly also reject the source of the testimony as unreliable), we have no equivalent defence mechanism against desire infection: there is no screening of desires.

Even more worryingly, if we accept the broadly Humean way of thinking about the self as consisting of (maybe besides other mental states) the set of all our desires, then the self is (to a large extent) the outcome of random desire infection. So we should really pay attention whom we are hanging out with!

Bence Nanay

Bence Nanay is Professor of Philosophy and BOF Research Professor (ZAPTTBOF), Centre for Philosophical Psychology, University of Antwerp, and Senior Research Associate, Peterhouse, University of Cambridge. He specialises in the Philosophy of Mind, the Philosophy of Biology, and Aesthetics, and he has published widely in these areas. In 2013 Oxford University Press published his book Between Perception and Action.

When & Where?

Wednesday 11 March, 15.15 – 17.00
Room Omega, Faculty of Philosophy

Last modified:06 June 2019 12.45 p.m.