Edited by Leonard Kahn (Loyola University, New Orleans)
About this topic
Summary An amoralistis someone who can make first person moral judgments (such as "It is morally obligatory for me to do F") without being motivated in any way to act in accordance with these judgments. It is a matter of considerable debate whether amoralists are logically, metaphysically, or nomologically possible. Any of these possibilities raise serious doubts (or worse) regarding internalism about moral judgments. If indeed amoralists are possible in any of these senses, there are interesting questions to answer about the nature of moral agency, the degree to which amoralists are under any kind of moral constraints, and what would cause one to become an amoralist in the first place. 
Key works Brink 1986 defended the possibility of amoralists and did much to bring questions about amoralism to the fore in metaethics. Svavarsdottir 1999 and Zangwill 2009 are among those who provide worthwhile extensions of this line of thought. Blackburn 1993 argues against the possibility of amoralism with an attack on moral realism as his goal, while Smith 1994 takes a similar line of amoralism but attempts to turn it to the advantage moral realism.
Introductions Lenman 1999; van Roojen 2010; Sadler 2003.
Related categories

58 found
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  1. Vulnerability and the Incompleteness of Practical Reason.Carla Bagnoli - forthcoming - In Christine Strahele (ed.), Vulnerability, Autonomy and Applied Ethics. Routledge. pp. 13-32.
    In this chapter, I examine the concept of vulnerability as a complex constitutive feature of human agency and argue that it is both a constraint on and a resource for practical reasoning. When discussed as an ontological feature of human agency, vulnerability is primarily understood as an aspect of embodiment, which is problematic in different respects. First, in relation to the situatedness of human agency, vulnerability indicates that human agents are subjected to contextual contingencies. Second, in relation to temporality, vulnerability (...)
  2. The Alleged Paradox of Moral Perfection.Carla Bagnoli - 2006 - In Elvio Baccarini (ed.), Rationality in Belief and Action,. Rijeka.
    Some contemporary philosophers, notably B. Williams and S. Wolf, argue that moral perfection is not just an unsustainable ideal, but also an unreasonable one in that it thwarts and demotes all the various elements that contribute to personal well-being. More importantly, moral perfection seems to imply the denial of an identifiable personal self; hence the paradox of moral perfection. I argue that this alleged paradox arises because of a misunderstanding of the role of moral ideals, of their overridingness, and of (...)
  3. Ethical Neo-Expressivism.Dorit Bar-On & Matthew Chrisman - 2009 - In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, vol. 4. Oxford University Press. pp. 132-65.
    A standard way to explain the connection between ethical claims and motivation is to say that these claims express motivational attitudes. Unless this connection is taken to be merely a matter of contingent psychological regularity, it may seem that there are only two options for understanding it. We can either treat ethical claims as expressing propositions that one cannot believe without being at least somewhat motivated (subjectivism), or we can treat ethical claims as nonpropositional and as having their semantic content (...)
  4. Moral Judgment Purposivism: Saving Internalism From Amoralism.M. S. Bedke - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 144 (2):189-209.
    Consider orthodox motivational judgment internalism: necessarily, A’s sincere moral judgment that he or she ought to φ motivates A to φ. Such principles fail because they cannot accommodate the amoralist, or one who renders moral judgments without any corresponding motivation. The orthodox alternative, externalism, posits only contingent relations between moral judgment and motivation. In response I first revive conceptual internalism by offering some modifications on the amoralist case to show that certain community-wide motivational failures are not conceptually possible. Second, I (...)
  5. Recent Work on Motivational Internalism.Fredrik Björklund, Gunnar Björnsson, John Eriksson, Ragnar Francén Olinder & Caj Strandberg - 2012 - Analysis 72 (1):124-137.
    Reviews work on moral judgment motivational internalism from the last two decades.
  6. How Emotivism Survives Immoralists, Irrationality, and Depression.Gunnar Björnsson - 2002 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 40 (3):327-344.
    Argues that emotivism is compatible with cases where we seem to lack motivation to act according to our moral opinions.
  7. Motivational Internalism and Folk Intuitions.Gunnar Björnsson, John Eriksson, Caj Strandberg, Ragnar Francén Olinder & Fredrik Björklund - 2015 - Philosophical Psychology 28 (5):715-734.
    Motivational internalism postulates a necessary connection between moral judgments and motivation. In arguing for and against internalism, metaethicists traditionally appeal to intuitions about cases, but crucial cases often yield conflicting intuitions. One way to try to make progress, possibly uncovering theoretical bias and revealing whether people have conceptions of moral judgments required for noncognitivist accounts of moral disagreement, is to investigate non-philosophers' willingness to attribute moral judgments. A pioneering study by Shaun Nichols seemed to undermine internalism, as a large majority (...)
  8. Internalists Beware—We Might All Be Amoralists!Gunnar Björnsson & Ragnar Francén Olinder - 2013 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (1):1 - 14.
    Standard motivational internalism is the claim that by a priori or conceptual necessity, a psychological state is a moral opinion only if it is suitably related to moral motivation. Many philosophers, the authors of this paper included, have assumed that this claim is supported by intuitions to the effect that amoralists?people not suitably related to such motivation?lack moral opinions proper. In this paper we argue that this assumption is mistaken, seeming plausible only because defenders of standard internalism have failed to (...)
  9. Moral Attitudes for Non-Cognitivists: Solving the Specification Problem.Gunnar Björnsson & Tristram McPherson - 2014 - Mind 123 (489):1-38.
    Moral non-cognitivists hope to explain the nature of moral agreement and disagreement as agreement and disagreement in non-cognitive attitudes. In doing so, they take on the task of identifying the relevant attitudes, distinguishing the non-cognitive attitudes corresponding to judgements of moral wrongness, for example, from attitudes involved in aesthetic disapproval or the sports fan’s disapproval of her team’s performance. We begin this paper by showing that there is a simple recipe for generating apparent counterexamples to any informative specification of the (...)
  10. Motivational Internalism.Gunnar Björnsson, Caj Strandberg, Ragnar Francén Olinder, John Eriksson & Fredrik Björklund (eds.) - 2015 - Oxford University Press.
    Motivational internalism—the idea that there is an intrinsic or necessary connection between moral judgment and moral motivation—is a central thesis in a number of metaethical debates. In conjunction with a Humean picture of motivation, it provides a challenge for cognitivist theories that take moral judgments to concern objective aspects of reality. Versions of internalism have potential implications for moral absolutism, realism, non-naturalism, and rationalism. Being a constraint on more detailed conceptoins of moral motivation and moral judgment, it is also directly (...)
  11. Motivational Internalism and the Challenge of Amoralism.Danielle Bromwich - 2016 - European Journal of Philosophy 24 (2):452-471.
    Motivational internalism is the thesis that captures the commonplace thought that moral judgements are necessarily motivationally efficacious. But this thesis appears to be in tension with another aspect of our ordinary moral experience. Proponents of the contrast thesis, motivational externalism, cite everyday examples of amoralism to demonstrate that it is conceptually possible to be completely unmoved by what seem to be sincere first-person moral judgements. This paper argues that the challenge of amoralism gives us no reason to reject or modify (...)
  12. Joseph Raz on the Problem of the Amoralist.Terence Rajivan Edward - 2013 - Abstracta 7 (1):85-93.
    Joseph Raz has argued that the problem of the amoralist is misconceived. In this paper, I present three interpretations of what his argument is. None of these interpretations yields an argument that we are in a position to accept.
  13. The Selves and the Shoemaker: Psychopaths, Moral Judgement, and Responsibility.Stephen Finlay - 2011 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 49 (s1):125–133.
    David Shoemaker argues from (A) psychopaths’ emotional deficiency, to (B) their insensitivity to moral reasons, to (C) their lack of criminal responsibility. This response observes three important ambiguities in this argument, involving the interpretation of (1) psychopaths’ emotional deficit, (2) their insensitivity to reasons, and (3) their moral judgements. Resolving these ambiguities presents Shoemaker with a dilemma: his argument either equivocates or it is falsified by the empirical evidence. An alternative perspective on psychopaths’ moral and criminal responsibility is proposed.
  14. The Conversational Practicality of Value Judgement.Stephen Finlay - 2004 - Journal of Ethics 8 (3):205-223.
    Analyses of moral value judgements must meet a practicality requirement: moral speech acts characteristically express pro- or con-attitudes, indicate that speakers are motivated in certain ways, and exert influence on others' motivations. Nondescriptivists including Simon Blackburn and Allan Gibbard claim that no descriptivist analysis can satisfy this requirement. I argue first that while the practicality requirement is defeasible, it indeed demands a connection between value judgement and motivation that resembles a semantic or conceptual rather than merely contingent psychological link. I (...)
  15. Moral Opposites - An Examination of Intuitions Concerning the Amoralist and the Moral Saint.J. Fischer - unknown
    In this thesis I want to take a look at the extreme ends of the moral spectrum. Specifically, I am going to examine the very extremes of the moral spectrum, namely the amoralist and the moral saint. I want to take a look at the justifications we have for the intuitions people commonly hold about these two opposites; the intuition being that both an amoralist and a moral saint are undesirable ideals. In examining both cases, I aim to answer the (...)
  16. Egoismo e altruismo.Lorenzo Greco - forthcoming - In Simone Pollo (ed.), L’etica: una storia per idee. Carocci.
  17. A Powerless Conscience: Hume on Reflection and Acting Conscientiously.Lorenzo Greco - 2017 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 25 (3):547–564.
    If one looks for the notion of conscience in Hume, there appears to be a contrast between the loose use of it that can be found in his History of England, and the stricter use of it Hume makes in his philosophical works. It is my belief that, notwithstanding the problems Hume’s philosophy raises for a notion such as conscience, it is possible to frame a positive Humean explanation of it. I want to suggest that, far from corresponding to a (...)
  18. Value Judgement: Improving Our Ethical Beliefs.James Griffin - 1996 - Clarendon Press.
    In this elegantly written book James Griffin offers a new examination of the fundamental questions of ethics. Central to the book is the question of how we can improve our ethical judgements and beliefs; in addressing this, Professor Griffin discusses such key issues of moral philosophy as what a good life is like, where the boundaries of the natural world come, how values relate to the world, how great human capacities are, and where moral norms come from. He gives a (...)
  19. Why I'm an Amoralist.Uri Harris - manuscript
    In this paper, I argue that morality, like theism, is a framework for ordering observations. I demonstrate that morality is a court framework, using the three category-pairs common to a court system. I then ask which observations this framework is ordering. I consider three theories: 1) individual preferences, 2) social norms, 3) a society’s relation to its environment. I demonstrate that the latter is the best fit, and that it makes sense that prehistoric societies would attempt to apply a court (...)
  20. Expressivism and Convention-Relativism About Epistemic Discourse.Allan Hazlett - forthcoming - In A. Fairweather & O. Flanagan (eds.), Naturalizing Epistemic Virtue. Cambridge University Press.
    Consider the claim that openmindedness is an epistemic virtue, the claim that true belief is epistemically valuable, and the claim that one epistemically ought to cleave to one’s evidence. These are examples of what I’ll call “ epistemic discourse.” In this paper I’ll propose and defend a view called “convention-relativism about epistemic discourse.” In particular, I’ll argue that convention-relativismis superior to its main rival, expressivism about epistemic discourse. Expressivism and conventionalism both jibe with anti-realism about epistemic normativity, which is motivated (...)
  21. Intuition and Belief in Moral Motivation.Antti Kauppinen - 2015 - In Gunnar Björnsson (ed.), Moral Internalism. Oxford University Press.
    It seems to many that moral opinions must make a difference to what we’re motivated to do, at least in suitable conditions. For others, it seems that it is possible to have genuine moral opinions that make no motivational difference. Both sides – internalists and externalists about moral motivation – can tell persuasive stories of actual and hypothetical cases. My proposal for a kind of reconciliation is to distinguish between two kinds of psychological states with moral content. There are both (...)
  22. Autism, Empathy and Moral Agency.Jeanette Kennett - 2002 - Philosophical Quarterly 52 (208):340-357.
    Psychopaths have long been of interest to moral philosophers, since a careful examination of their peculiar deficiencies may reveal what features are normally critical to the development of moral agency. What underlies the psychopath's amoralism? A common and plausible answer to this question is that the psychopath lacks empathy. Lack of empathy is also claimed to be a critical impairment in autism, yet it is not at all clear that autistic individuals share the psychopath's amoralism. How is empathy characterized in (...)
  23. Utilitarian Moral Judgment in Psychopathy.Michael Koenigs, Michael Kruepke, Joshua Zeier & Joseph P. Newman - 2011 - Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience:1-7.
    Psychopathic behavior is characteristically amoral, but to date research studies have largely failed to identify any systematic differences in moral judgment capability between psychopaths and non-psychopaths. In this study, we investigate whether significant differences in moral judgment emerge when taking into account the phenotypic heterogeneity of the disorder through a well-validated distinction between psychopathic subtypes. Three groups of incarcerated participants [low-anxious psychopaths (n 1⁄4 12), high-anxious psychopaths (n 1⁄4 12) and non-psychopaths (n 1⁄4 24)] completed a moral judgment test involving (...)
  24. The Claim to Moral Adequacy of a Highest Stage of Moral Judgment.Lawrence Kohlberg - 1973 - Journal of Philosophy 70 (18):630-646.
  25. Evaluating an Immoral Act Under Threat Versus Temptation: An Illustration of the Achievement Principle in Moral Judgment1.Arie W. Kruglanski & Yoel Yinon - 1974 - Journal of Moral Education 3 (2):167-175.
  26. 'The Amoralist and the Externalist'.James Lenman - 1999 - Philosophia 27:451.
  27. Imaginative Resistance and the Moral/Conventional Distinction.Neil Levy - 2005 - Philosophical Psychology 18 (2):231 – 241.
    Children, even very young children, distinguish moral from conventional transgressions, inasmuch as they hold that the former, but not the latter, would still be wrong if there was no rule prohibiting them. Many people have taken this finding as evidence that morality is objective, and therefore universal. I argue that reflection on the phenomenon of imaginative resistance will lead us to question these claims. If a concept applies in virtue of the obtaining of a set of more basic facts, then (...)
  28. Transgressors, Victims, and Cry Babies: Is Basic Moral Judgment Spared in Autism?Ron Mallon, Alan M. Leslie & Jennifer DiCorcia - unknown - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    of (from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) forthcoming in Social Neuroscience. [nearly final draft in .pdf] An empirical investigation of moral judgment in autism.
  29. Ethics Without Morals: A Defense of Amorality, by Joel Marks.James McBain - 2013 - Teaching Philosophy 36 (3):306-310.
  30. Motivational Internalism.Christian Miller - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 139 (2):233-255.
    Cases involving amoralists who no longer care about the institution of morality, together with cases of depression, listlessness, and exhaustion, have posed trouble in recent years for standard formulations of motivational internalism. In response, though, internalists have been willing to adopt narrower versions of the thesis which restrict it just to the motivational lives of those agents who are said to be in some way normal, practically rational, or virtuous. My goal in this paper is to offer a new set (...)
  31. Agency and Moral Realism.Christian Miller - 2004 - Dissertation, University of Notre Dame
    Much of the literature in contemporary analytic metaethics has grown rather stale – the range of possible positions seems to have been exhaustively delineated, and most of the important arguments on all sides have been clearly articulated and evaluated. In order to advance discussion in this area, I examine more fundamental issues about the nature of agency. In my view, the heart of what it is to exhibit intentional agency in the world is to identify with the relevant components of (...)
  32. On the Nature of Psychopathy.Daniel Moseley & Gary Gala - forthcoming - In Fabrice Jotterand & James Giordano (eds.), The Neurobiology of Social Disruption: International Perspectives of Psychiatry, Pathology and Society. Potomic Institute Press.
    The primary goal of this essay is to clarify the concept of psychopathy and distinguish it from other, related, concepts. We contend that the paradigmatic trait of psychopathy is a propensity to violence that is accompanied by a lack of conscience. We also argue that conceptual clarity on this point is important for devising empirical criteria for identifying psychopaths. We also argue that a full theory of psychopathy will require one to utilize theories and assumptions that pertain to central issues (...)
  33. After Objectivity: An Empirical Study of Moral Judgment.Shaun Nichols - 2004 - Philosophical Psychology 17 (1):3 – 26.
    This paper develops an empirical argument that the rejection of moral objectivity leaves important features of moral judgment intact. In each of five reported experiments, a number of participants endorsed a nonobjectivist claim about a canonical moral violation. In four of these experiments, participants were also given a standard measure of moral judgment, the moral/conventional task. In all four studies, participants who respond as nonobjectivists about canonical moral violations still treat such violations in typical ways on the moral/conventional task. In (...)
  34. On the Coherence of Classist Amoralism.Kai Nielsen - 1980 - Philosophical Studies 27:84-93.
  35. Svavarsdóttir's Burden.Olinder Ragnar Francén - 2012 - Philosophia 40 (3):577-589.
    It is sometimes observed that the debate between internalists and externalists about moral motivation seems to have reached a deadlock. There are those who do, and those who don’t, recognize the intuitive possibility of amoralists: i.e. people having moral opinions without being motivated to act accordingly. This makes Sigrun Svavarsdóttir’s methodological objection to internalism especially interesting, since it promises to break the deadlock through building a case against internalism (construed as a conceptual thesis), not on such intuitions, but on a (...)
  36. Moral Accountability.Marina Oshana - 2004 - Philosophical Topics 32 (1/2):255-274.
    The principal aim of this essay is to explore aspects of the phenomenon of moral conversation at work in ascriptions of responsibility. A corollary aim will be to understand the variety of freedom we regard as foundational to ascriptions of responsibility. To ascribe responsibility to a person is to judge that the person is accountable for her behavior. Accountability demands that a person be a moral interlocutor; being a moral interlocutor requires that a person is alert to moral reasons in (...)
  37. Ascriptions of Responsibility.Marina A. L. Oshana - 1997 - American Philosophical Quarterly 34 (1):71 - 83.
  38. Review of Why Be Moral? : The Egoistic Challenge by John van Ingen. [REVIEW]Charles Pigden - 1996 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74 (4).
    Van Ingen's aim aim is to vindicate the moral life by mounting and then meeting a powerful challenge. But he makes it so easy to be moral - it is enough to care about one other person - and so tough to be amoral - it involves being absolutely selfish - that his challenge is no challenge at all. It's not much of a vindication of morality if the morality you vindicate makes Tony Soprano a moral person.
  39. A 'Sensible Knave'? Hume, Jane Austen and Mr Elliot.Charles R. Pigden - 2012 - Intellectual History Review 22 (3):465-480.
    This paper deals with what I take to be one woman’s literary response to a philosophical problem. The woman is Jane Austen, the problem is the rationality of Hume’s ‘sensible knave’, and Austen’s response is to deepen the problem. Despite his enthusiasm for virtue, Hume reluctantly concedes in the EPM that injustice can be a rational strategy for ‘sensible knaves’, intelligent but selfish agents who feel no aversion towards thoughts of villainy or baseness. Austen agrees, but adds that ABSENT CONSIDERATIONS (...)
  40. Can the Amoralist Only Be 'Right'?: A Closer Look at the Inverted-Commas Argument.Brook Jenkins Sadler - 2000 - Southwest Philosophy Review 17 (1):113-122.
  41. Amoralität Und Psychopathologie.Thomas Schramme - 2015 - Psycho Im Fokus: Das Magazin der DGPPN:38-40.
  42. Being a (A-)Moral Person and Caring About Morality.Thomas Schramme - 2014 - In Being Amoral: Psychopathy and Moral Incapacity. MIT Press. pp. 227-244.
    The chapter starts from a specific interpretation of what it means to know the difference between right and wrong, which stems from Gilbert Ryle. To know the difference between right and wrong implies caring about morality. The author links Ryle’s ideas to the notion of being a moral person. Two different ideas found in moral philosophy are delineated, namely, the amoral person, that is, someone who rejects the demands of morality, and the morally incapacitated person, that is, someone who cannot (...)
  43. Introduction.Thomas Schramme - 2014 - In Being Amoral: Psychopathy and Moral Incapacity. MIT Press. pp. 1-39.
  44. Oxford Studies in Metaethics Vol. 4.Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.) - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
  45. In Defense of Comic Pluralism.Nathaniel Sharadin - 2017 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20 (2):375-392.
    Jokes are sometimes morally objectionable, and sometimes they are not. What’s the relationship between a joke’s being morally objectionable and its being funny? Philosophers’ answers to this question run the gamut. In this paper I present a new argument for the view that the negative moral value of a joke can affect its comedic value both positively and negatively.
  46. Moralisk motivation – ett dilemma och dess lösning.Caj Strandberg - 2014 - Filosofisk Tidskrift (1).
  47. The Pragmatics of Moral Motivation.Caj Strandberg - 2011 - Journal of Ethics 15 (4):341-369.
    One of the most prevalent and influential assumptions in metaethics is that our conception of the relation between moral language and motivation provides strong support to internalism about moral judgments. In the present paper, I argue that this supposition is unfounded. Our responses to the type of thought experiments that internalists employ do not lend confirmation to this view to the extent they are assumed to do. In particular, they are as readily explained by an externalist view according to which (...)
  48. Moral Reality. A Defence of Moral Realism.Caj Strandberg - 2004 - Lund University.
    The main aim of this thesis is to defend moral realism. In chapter 1, I argue that moral realism is best understood as the view that moral sentences have truth-value, there are moral properties that make some moral sentences true, and moral properties are not reducible to non- moral properties. Realism is contrasted with non-cognitivism, error-theory and reductionism, which, in brief, deny, and, respectively. In the introductory chapter, it is also argued that there are some prima facie reasons to assume (...)
  49. Is Moral Internalism Supported by Folk Intuitions?Caj Strandberg & Fredrik Björklund - 2013 - Philosophical Psychology 26 (3):319-335.
    In the metaethical debate on moral internalism and externalism, appeal is constantly made to people’s intuitions about the connection between moral judgments and motivation. However, internalists and externalists disagree considerably about their content. In this paper, we present an empirical study of laymen’s intuitions about this connection. We found that they lend surprisingly little support to the most celebrated versions of internalism, which provide reasons to be skeptical of the evidential basis for these views.
  50. The Amoralist Objection and the Method of Moral Reasoning.Matej Sušnik - 2009 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):91-100.
    In his book Moralna spoznaja Baccarini argues that, with respect to the individual reasoning about morality, the method of reflective equilibrium is the appropriate method of moral reasoning. The starting point of my argument is Baccarini’s refutation of Hare’s view. As I see it, one of Baccarini’s central arguments against Hare consists in claiming that Hare’s approach to the amoralist objection weakens the deductive model of moral reasoning. I argue that the amoralist objection also posses a threat to the method (...)
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