First-order desires and Second-order volitions... based on Harry Frankfurt's "Freedom of the Will and Concept of a person".... i'm really proud of this paper, but the teacher only gave a B T_T

Essay by grinnndaemonCollege, UndergraduateA+, May 2004

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Christopher Sipe


Philosophy 101

Prof. M. Gligarov

First-order Desires and Second-order Volitions

In his Freedom of Will and Concept of a Person, Harry Frankfurt asserts that the common philosophical approach to the concept of a person is wrong, as it interferes with his own perception. Frankfurt mentions Strawson's definition: "the concept of a type of entity such that both predicates ascribing states of consciousness and predicates ascribing corporeal characteristics . . . are equally applicable to a single individual of that single type." In contrast to Strawson, Frankfurt alleges that a person must have both a first-order desire and second-order desire or volition to be a person.

A first-order desire is simply a "desire to do or not to do one or another." A second-order desire is when a person wants to simply have a certain desire or when a person wants a certain desire to be his will.

Frankfurt tells us that second-order volitions are the latter of the two second-order definitions ("wants a certain desire to be his will.")

Many would question what second-order desires have to do with this work on freedom of will. In his own words, Frankfurt explains: "For it is only in virtue of his rational capabilities that a person is capable of becoming critically aware of his own will and of forming volitions of the second order." This means that only a creature with the capabilities of reason can realize that it has its own will and can make volitions of the second order, and thus is a person.

To explain better the notion of a person, Frankfurt calls upon an example of two narcotic addicts, called the wanton addict and the unwilling addict. A wanton, plainly stated, are "Agents who have first-order desires but who are not persons because, whether or...