The Nature of Desire

June 26, 2012 - June 28, 2012
University of Geneva

Boulevard du Pont-d’Arve 40
Genève 1205


  • Swiss National Science Foundation

Selected speakers:

Ronald DeSousa
University of Toronto
Daniel Friedrich
Humboldt University of Berlin
Alex Gregory
University of Reading
Federico Lauria
University of Geneva
Graham Oddie
University of Colorado, Boulder
Peter Railton
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Timothy Schroeder
Ohio State University
Fred Schueler
University of Delaware
David Wall
University of Northampton

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As a matter of fact, we desire lots of things. But what are desires? Despite the standard mention of desires in different contemporary debates, the question of the nature of desire is rarely addressed. The aim of this conference is to put the issue of the nature of desire in its right place.

In the recent literature, several accounts of desires have been defended. For some, values are essential to understand desires. For others, the relation desires bear to motivation and action is essential to them. Alternatively, several accounts construe desires as essentially related to norms. Finally, for some, the key for understanding desires lies, respectively, in rewards or in needs.

The conference will discuss these different views of desires by addressing questions of the following sort. Are desires essentially experiences as of the good? Are they essentially dispositions to act? Do they involve a specific mode under which content is represented? What is the relation between the nature of desire and their peculiar direction of fit? How are we to make sense of the normativity of desires? Are there Moore’s Paradoxes for desires and what do they reveal about desires?


Tuesday June 26th, Desires and Values
14.45-15.15     Welcome address and coffee
15.15-16.35     Graham Oddie, ‘Desire and the Fitting Attitude Analysis of Value’
16.40-18.00     Daniel Friedrich, ‘Desire and Evaluation’

Wednesday June 27th, Desires and Reasons
09.00-10.20     Peter Railton, ‘Rationality in Desire and Belief’
10.35-11.55     David Wall, ‘Desiderative Inconsistency, Moore’s Paradox and Norms of Desire’
12.05-13.25     Fred Schueler, ‘Deliberation and Desire’
15.00-16.20     Alex Gregory, ‘Might Desires Be Beliefs About Normative Reasons?’
16.35-17.55     Timothy Schroeder, ‘The Neuroscience of Moral Motivation’

Thursday June 28th, Desires and Satisfaction
09.00-10.20     Ronald de Sousa, ‘Muses, Fluffers, and the Curse of Satisfaction’
10.35-11.55     Federico Lauria, ‘Desires and Ought-to-Be. Motivating a Deontic View of Desires.'


The conference will take place at UniMail (Boulevard du Pont-d’Arve 40, 1205 Genève), room MS050, in the basement (plan:

To get there from the airport, the simplest and quickest way is to take a train to Geneva main station (7 minutes from the airport to the main station). Just before going out of the arrival - luggage hall and moving towards exit, there is a machine which distributes free tickets to passengers arriving, for a one hour ride all over Geneva in all public transports. (Anyway, a single ticket for one hour costs CHF 3.50.) Follow the sign "Geneve - Centre" at the airport train station and take any train, they all stop at the main train station (first stop). Then take the tram as indicated below.

To get there from the train station, take tram 15 direction Palettes to UniMail. (5 stops, 10 minutes, ticket 3.50 CHF to be bought at the tram stop.)

To move around in Geneva, the simplest way by far is to use public transportation. The hotel has to provide you with a free day pass for all public transportation, do not forget to ask for it. The public transport company (TPG) has a useful route planner (

This conference is organized by the research group Thumos, the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, and sponsored by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Attendance is free and all are welcome. Please contact or for any question.

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