Beliefs, Desires and Descriptions
Abstract: Recently, several theorists have argued that so-called “counterfactual attitudes”, e.g. imagining and dreaming, have a two-dimensional structure. In this paper, I provide a novel argument showing that non-counterfactual desire states, e.g. hoping and wanting, have this structure as well. I also explain how this account of desire helps us solve an existing problem involving indefinite descriptions in the scope of desire verbs. On the theory I develop, a subject’s desires are intimately related to the content of their beliefs. This is captured by moving to a framework in which desire states relate subjects to propositional objects that have two layers of semantic potential. A subject’s beliefs will be represented along one layer, and her desires relative to her beliefs will be represented along another. I make this idea concrete by building on my account of counterfactual wishing, and propose that desire states relate subjects to sets of pairs of worlds, or paired propositions, rather than—as is standardly assumed—sets of worlds.