[lit-ideas] Re: When you're hot you're hot, when you're not ...

  • From: Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 7 Sep 2009 08:57:29 +0700

Mike Geary wrote:

"I read this book recently too.  It supported all my prejudices.
We're all just wads of wanting and the wanting is tied to our DNA and
our histories. ... At 20 years of age I left the seminary and shook
the dust of all belief from my feet.  In the intervening 46 years no
one has given me any reason to believe that we're not just ourselves,
prisoners of our emotional needs."

Sure, there is lots of wanting in our lives, but perhaps it is
significant that when it comes to believing stuff, Mike still wants

It seems to me that beyond being a performative contradiction, the
claim of "the empirical refutation of so-called 'rational decisions'"
is confused.  Very few philosophers would claim that rationality has
nothing to do with our desires.  Rather, it seems to me, that
rationality comes into play when we realize that our desires rarely
line up with each other and that often they produce consequences we
don't desire.  The trick, then, is to figure out which desires we
desire the most and how to manage our other desires so that we get
what we want most.

People may enjoy having a few beers at the local pub and also want to
drive home, but most people also realize that preserving one's own
life as well as that of others is more important than the desire to
drive.  So, we arrive at the rational decision that it is better to
not satisfy the desire to drive after drinking because another desire
overrides it.

I can't imagine a rational decision that does not involve desires so I
fail to see how the 'discovery' that emotions are at work in rational
decision-making is a refutation.

This strikes me as being in the same vein of research as the
'discovery' that people having a religious experience also have
distinctive brain activity.  As my daughter would say, 'Well, d'uh!'


Phil Enns
Yogyakarta, Indonesia
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