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Imaginative Motivation

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  • Published online: 01 June 2009

This article argues for a certain picture of the rational formation of conditional intentions, in particular deterrent intentions, that stands in sharp contrast to accounts on which rational agents are often not able to form such intentions because of what these enjoin should their conditions be realized. By considering the case of worthwhile but hard-to-form ‘non-apocalyptic’ deterrent intentions (the threat to leave a cheating partner, say), the article argues that rational agents may be able to form such intentions by first simulating psychological states in which they have successfully formed them and then bootstrapping themselves into actually forming them. The article also discusses certain limits imposed by this model. In particular, given the special nature of ‘apocalyptic’ deterrent intentions (e.g. the ones supposedly involved in nuclear deterrence), there is good reason to think that these must remain inaccessible to fully rational and moral agents.

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Gregory Kavka , ‘Some Paradoxes of Deterrence’, Journal of Philosophy 75 (1978), pp. 285302

P. Pettit and M. Smith , ‘Backgrounding Desire’, Philosophical Review 99 (1990), pp. 565–92

Bennett Helm , Emotional Reason (Cambridge, 2001)

Gilbert Harman , Reasoning, Meaning and Mind (Oxford, 1999), ch. 2

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  • ISSN: 0953-8208
  • EISSN: 1741-6183
  • URL: /core/journals/utilitas
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