Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Representation, Description and Motivation: A Quick Note

Some quick ideas I'm trying out:

Anytime something is linked directly to motivation or action in a timely way (i.e., tensed or first person representations, ethical representations maybe, etc.), the representation in question which represents the motivating or action-involving fact to the thinker is not fully descriptive but is linked to some outside entity in a more direct, not-so-description-determined way. Tensed representations link us in direct, non-descriptive ways to times, first-person ones link each one of us to ourselves, and so on.

This might give some weight to moral realists or even moral naturalists. For judgment internalists, "moral representations" are ceteris paribus intrinsically motivating. Moral antirealists often point this out to try to shore up their claim that moral "representations" aren't really representational of any kind of moral reality after all. And even moral realist non-naturalists may want to press the Open-Question argument and point out that it is always open to ask whether any particular natural properties is really good. And this argument may be even stronger if it is pointed out that goodness is motivating for us whereas we may not necessarily feel so motivated when it comes to some merely natural property.

The paragraph above the previous one may hold some kind of ammunition for the realist or naturalist against their foes. Moral terms or concepts may indeed not be fully descriptive and yet may refer perfectly well to particular properties - even natural ones. These properties, perhaps, would not under a non-moral description be intrinsically motivating. What moral representation does is put the representation in a form where we can be linked to these moral properties more directly, with less mediation by description, so that these properties can motivate us in the proper way similar to the way a third-person description of the same fact would not motivate me or produce actions of mine in the same appropriate way as a first-person representation of that fact would.

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