Philosophical Review 108 (1):94-97 (1999)

Michael Smith’s moral problem is not about whether to betray one’s friends or one’s country. It is a metaethical problem about how to combine three tempting theses that look mutually inconsistent: moral cognitivism, appraiser internalism about moral judgments and motivation, and a “Humean” account of motivation. In Smith’s formulation, these become: 1. Moral judgements of the form, ‘It is right that I φ’ express a subject’s belief about an objective matter of fact, a fact about what it is right for her to do. 2. [Necessarily] if someone judges that it is right that she φs, then, ceteris paribus, she is motivated to φ. 3. An agent is motivated to act in a certain way just in case she has an appropriate desire and a means-end belief, where belief and desire are, in Hume’s terms, distinct existences. As he notes, many metaethical positions can be classified by the way they seek to escape this apparent inconsistency: noncognitivists deny 1 to preserve 2 and 3, some ethical naturalists deny 2 to save 1 and 3, and some internalist cognitivists deny 3 and keep 1 and 2. Smith devotes a chapter to each of these responses and then defends his own view, which retains all three claims in a position advertised as not only consistent but realist, internalist, and, in a broad sense, naturalist.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0031-8108
DOI 10.2307/2998264
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