Second-Order Volition and Conflict between Desires


In Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person, Harry Frankfurt put forward a theory that what is essential to be a person is second-order volition. The notion of second-order volition can be used as a key conceptual tool in understanding the conflict between desires. By means of the notion, this paper argues that the conflict between desires in our minds lies in the conflict between second-order volitions, other than the conflict between first-order desires. Based on this claim, this paper suggests that, due to the misunderstanding of the nature of the conflict between desires, the analysis of unwilling addict and wanton addict given by Frankfurt is thus wrong, and in his follow-up articles he made wrong description of the phenomenon concerning the conflict between desires.

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Li, H. & Li, H. (2012). Second-Order Volition and Conflict between Desires. Open Journal of Philosophy, 2, 25-31. doi: 10.4236/ojpp.2012.21004.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Frankfurt, H. (1988). The importance of what we care about: Philosophical essays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[2] Frankfurt, H. (1992). The faintest passion. Proceedings and Addresse of the American Philosophical Association, 66, 5-16. doi:10.2307/3130658

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