A New Defense of the Motive of Duty Thesis

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (5):1163-1179 (2018)
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Abstract

According to the Motive of Duty Thesis, a necessary condition for an action to have moral worth is that it be motivated at least in part by a normative assessment of the action. However, this thesis has been subject to two powerful objections. It has been accused of over-intellectualizing moral agency, and of giving the wrong verdict when it comes to people who hold false moral theories that convince them that their actions are in fact morally wrong. I argue that both of these objections can be convincingly answered using resources from the Guise of the Good view, which holds that for an agent to intend to requires that they take Φing to be good. Furthermore, I argue that combining the motive of duty thesis with the Guise of the Good view allows us to recognize an important further condition on moral worth—namely, that the agent recognize that their reason for action requires, rather than merely permits, their action. Thus, while no action lacks moral worth in virtue of being motivated by no normative evaluation at all, an action can still lack moral worth in virtue of failing to be motived by the correct normative evaluation, namely that the action is required.

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Benjamin Wald
University of Toronto, St. George Campus

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References found in this work

In Praise of Desire.Nomy Arpaly & Timothy Schroeder - 2013 - Oxford University Press.
The Possibility of Practical Reason.David Velleman - 2000 - Oxford University Press.

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