Mathematical Models of Desire, Need, Attention, and Will Effort

Mathematical Models of Desire, Need, Attention, and Will Effort

Alexander J. Ovsich (Boston College, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 37
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1947-8.ch009
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According to Spinoza, “Love is nothing else but pleasure accompanied by the idea of an external cause”. Author proposes that desire is nothing else but a change of pleasure accompanied by the idea of its cause, that terms ‘desire', ‘want' and their cognates describe change of the pleasantness of the state of a subject (PSS in short) associated with X, that if change of PSS is positive/negative, then X is called desirable/undesirable correspondingly. Both positive and negative desires can be strong, so strength of desire characterizes its magnitude. Need of X is defined here as a cyclical desire of X that gets stronger/weaker with dissatisfaction/satisfaction of its need. Author also explores an idea that the stronger is desire of X by a subject, the more attention this subject pays to X. Distribution of attention and influence on it by the will effort are analyzed in this paper.
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The author presents here closely linked mathematical models of desire, need, and attention. Need and attention models are built upon the model of desire. Hence, desire is the pivotal entity of this inquiry and its first topic. There are many ways (Marks, 1986) and faces (Schroeder, 2004) of desire, but, first of all, there is one fundamental question about the meaning and definition of desire.

There is not much of a consensus about the notion of desire. The quite common understanding of desire as a propositional attitude was highly criticized by Bence Nanay (2013). “A number of philosophers have drawn attention to an ambiguity in the word ‘desire’ ” (De Sousa, 2011, p. 227). Schueler (1995, p. 6), who “... focused on contemporary philosophers...”, noted that “... the views I am criticizing suffer from a deep ambiguity in terms such as ‘desire’, ‘want’ and their cognates”. Frankfurt (2004, p.10) called the notion of desire “rampantly ubiquitous” and wrote:

Moreover, its various meanings are rarely distinguished; nor is there much effort to clarify how they are related. These matters are generally left carelessly undefined in the blunt usages of common sense and ordinary speech.

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