Moral Judgment and Motivation

Dissertation, Loyola University of Chicago (2002)

Moral judgments, such as judgments of right and wrong or good and bad, are intended to be action guiding. If moral judgments are to influence our conduct then there must be some connection between moral judgments and motives; moral considerations must be capable of moving us to act. But exactly what this connection is has been the source of considerable debate in moral philosophy. Most views about the connection between moral considerations and motivation fall under the general categories of "internalism" and "externalism". Internalists insist that there must be a necessary connection between moral considerations and motivation. They claim that sincerely making a moral judgment entails at least some motivation, on the part of the person making the judgment, to act accordingly. Externalism denies this. According to externalists, it is possible to have sincere moral beliefs and yet be completely unmoved by them. For externalists the motive is "outside" of the moral judgment. Moral considerations move us to act only indirectly through some sanction or by appealing to our desires. In this dissertation, I will defend a version of internalism that is compatible with cognitivism, i.e. one that does not make motives logically prior to moral belief. Moral judgements are true or false and yet they can motivate us to act. ;First, I will argue that moral claims are, at least implicitly, about reasons to act. Secondly, I will argue for a theory of motivation which allows for beliefs, and not just desires, to motivate action. The internalist/externalist debate sheds light on many questions in contemporary moral philosophy. Many of these questions cannot be adequately answered without first setting the debate between internalism and externalism. My dissertation will provide strong reasons for accepting an internalist theory of moral motivation, and this will have many implication for other metaethical issues
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