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Distinction between internalism and externalism about moral motivation : does Smith's argument against externalism work ?

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  1. The main difference between internalism and externalism
  2. Smith's argument
  3. The counter-arguments given by the externalists

Internalism and externalism about ethical motivation are two philosophical theories which appeared in the middle of the twentieth century. They are both concerned with the problem of ethical motivation. This implies that they both attempt to explain the way an agent can be motivated to act according to her moral judgment. They have different views on the issue, on which we are going to focus in the first part of this essay. Smith is one of the main philosophers supporting the internalist thesis. In his work "the moral problem?, he explains his theory and compares it with externalism. Different issues are raised in this debate, and different externalist philosophers have tried to answer Smith's work. We are going to focus on this particular debate in the second part of the essay, first by examining Smith's argument, and then by seeing how externalists challenge him. The issue of the debate is fundamental because these two positions have consequences on the way we consider the "nature and status of moral judgment and values?.

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