Volume 10, Issue 1, 2010
Direction of Fit Accounts of Belief and Desire Revisited
Proponents of Humean belief-desire psychology often appeal to the metaphor of direction of fit. Roughly, the distinction between belief and desire boils down to the differing relationship between the attitude, its content, and the way the world is. Belief in P will tend to go out of existence when confronted with the introduced (perception-like) state of not P. The desire that p will, by contrast, persist in face of the introduced state that not P. The world is to be aligned to match it. Two problems threaten the direction of fit strategy. The first is a worrying lack of clarity in the notion of an introduced state. On Smith’s view, this state looks and functions like a belief; this saddles the direction of fit strategy with vicious circularity. Second, David Copp and David Sobel argue that whether the metaphor is
cashed out in descriptive or normative terms, the direction of fit metaphor is fatally flawed. This gloomy prognosis is premature: the Humean should adopt a normative interpretation, since doing so would yield salvage the metaphor. The cost of the salvage, however, might be higher than Humeans want, since the normative view can be happily accepted by Kantians.