Lucifer and the Philosophical Importance of Desiderata and Considerata
So, tell me. What is it that you truly desire?
Apart from the physical powers of Lucifer, the spiritual power (or “mojo” as he calls it) is the ability to compel anyone to answer that question. It is no different from Wonder Woman’s magic lasso in the sense that one cannot help themselves from speaking the truth, but Lucifer’s mojo is focused specifically on desire. You might think this power is strange, but Lucifer has used it to effectively read people’s hearts, and determine whether or not their motive was innocent, guilty, or just benign. Given that motive is a key element in determining if someone is a criminal suspect (alongside means and opportunity), one can easily see how this power would benefit a police investigation… which is exactly what the show is premised on. So what is it about desire from a philosophical perspective that is significant?
The specialized term that philosophers use in these sorts of conversations is desiderata, which is Latin for “that which is desired” or “things desired.” Desiderata is weighed alongside considerata, which is Latin for “that which is considered” or “things considered.” For philosophers, desiderata and considerata are fundamental to philosophy itself, because it is ultimately what drives philosophy itself. Let me begin to explain by first defining what philosophy is, which I did in a previous article of mine:
Traditionally and etymologically, philosophy is defined as ‘the love of wisdom.’ As much as I appreciate that definition, I do not think it adequately reflects what philosophy is and what philosophers do in practice, which is why I think of philosophy as the study and application of fundamentals.
If philosophers desire wisdom, then they should also desire to study and apply fundamentals. But what is it that they truly desire? Why desire wisdom as opposed to something else? Well, perhaps, the answer to that question can be found in the ancient Greek maxim gnōthi seauton (“know thyself”). Wisdom allows you to know yourself, which in turn allows you to know what you are capable of. Similarly, wisdom is integral to the pursuit of the good life, which is what many consider to be philosophy’s central considerata. When combined, the desire to know yourself better and to consider what would make your life good is the reason why philosophers philosophize.
When was the last time you had a real conversation with yourself?
If your true desire is to live a good life, then there are multiple ways you can achieve this. Let me say that again, you can achieve a good life. Which means you need to go after it. You cannot wait around for the lottery to hit, or for somebody else to give it to you.
If your desire is to build real wealth in your lifetime, and you want to own property that brings you joy, then when do you plan on that happening? If you are feeling crushed by debt and you are living paycheck to paycheck, then who or what is stopping you from taking back your life from your creditors? What expenditures do you need to cut in order to break even and make ends meet?
If your desire is for a family, and you want to find a good person to marry, and to have children with, then what do you know to look for in a person before you commit to them? What is it about a future spouse that you would find desirable?
If you desire a healthier lifestyle, then what substances (food included) should you stop consuming? What kind of diet or work-out plan do you need to be on? How are you going to keep yourself accountable?
If you have procrastinated thinking about any of these questions and do not have any solutions for yourself, what do you think your future is going to be like? What is your excuse this time?
All things considered…
If you have ever heard a jazz musician play a phenomenal improvisational solo, then as a musician myself I can tell you it is not because they are just haphazardly playing a random assortment of notes that just happened to fit together nicely, rather they are letting their muscle memory and harmonic considerations take them “off sheet” in order to get into a “musical flow” of sorts.
Really good jazz musicians make improvisational solos look so easy, but that is only after they have put in a lot of hard work to master every little technique, motif, and musical phrase that made up the solo. You might think jazz is all about “breaking the musical rules,” but it’s actually based on a very solid understanding of the rules, such that the jazz musician can know where and when exactly to bend and break them for greater musical effect. I think when it comes to life, jazz music gives us a good example of the benefits in considering things that go beyond one discipline in order to better inform the discipline you’re working on.
Here is a non-music example: suppose you have two soccer teams playing each other, and the coach for Team Alpha decides to have his players do cross-country training instead of working on the mechanics of soccer itself (passing, dribbling, shooting, etc.); the coach for Team Omega decides to have his players work exclusively on the mechanics. Which team do you think will perform better? I think Team Alpha will perform better because the players will have greater cardio-vascular endurance, and even if they cannot pass or shoot worth a darn, they will be able to out-run Team Omega in the late game.
The point of this thought experiment was to illustrate the need for interdisciplinary training if performative excellence is your goal. In the previous section, I talked briefly about personal finances. You could simplify your finances by making a spreadsheet and balancing your income with your expenditures, but we know that in order to build real wealth you need to consider more than just those two things. You need to look at ways of increasing your income, ways to invest your money to help it grow faster than what a savings account offers, educational pathways you might need to take in order to become qualified for a higher-paying job, new locations that you might need to move to in order to have a better career, and so forth. You have to consider all of these things if you really desire wealth.
Consider your desires.
On the show, the character of Lucifer clearly views humans as being primarily and at times entirely motivated by our desires — that we chase what we want, without giving it much a second thought — and this is how he is able to make deals with people. Lucifer promises to deliver on what you want, so long as he gets what he wants in return (and we all know how that turns out). But if these people paused to consider what Lucifer was offering, they probably wouldn’t take the deal.
My point is that even after you make a list of what you desire in life, you should consider what behaviors those desires might lead to. For instance, if you desire to get high, or to feel numb, then necessarily you will have to engage in some sort of illicit behavior (such as buying drugs) that may cause more grief in the long run (you could get arrested, or develop an unhealthy addiction, or become a dealer yourself and get deep into criminal enterprise). Or suppose you really desire having sex. This could lead you down a path of objectifying partners, as you would only see them for what they can provide you in a moment, rather than the life you could both share together.
Giving into your temptation means letting your desires control your decision-making from top-to-bottom, without considering anything else. Any time you do this you’re making a “deal with the Devil,” even if he didn’t show up with a nice silk suit and a smile, and a contract with a pen in hand. The Devil is still very much in the details, and in the gray areas of everyday life.