Moral motivation and the way it functions have raised many theories, still debated today. There are two main theories under discussion; internalism and externalism about ethical motivation, both of them being central in the explanation of the mechanism that lies between moral judgements of an agent and his or her motivation to act upon and according to these judgements. These two theories define the nature of the link between judgement and motivation differently. According to the internalists, the connection between moral judgement and motivation for the good and strong-willed person is internal, it follows directly from the content of moral judgement itself, whereas for the externalists, the link is external and follows from the content of the motivational dispositions possessed [by the person] (Michael Smith The Moral Problem (1994) III, 3.5). The core opposition between these theories has led to severe criticism between the supporters of both streams. What distinctions can be made between internalism and externalism about moral motivation? Michael Smith in The Moral Problem presents the internalist view of moral motivation as the only plausible theory and challenges the externalist theory. Does his argument against externalism work?
[...] On their opinion, belief alone does motivate an agent to act appropriately to that desire. Internalists like McDowell refute the Human belief/desire theory and put forward the motivated desire theory. In this theory, the desire is not considered as independently intelligible, it does not make any sense alone without the belief. In the motivated desire theory, the belief alone originates both the desire and the motivation. The core oppositions of internalism and externalism have generated much literature, supporters of each theories responding to each other by examples and counter-examples. [...]
[...] Hence, externalism cannot account for the connection between moral judgement and moral motivation in the “good and strong-willed person” without attributing to him thought too whereas the internalist will aim at doing the right thing de re, directly and non-derivatively. Therefore internalism explains much better why a change in motivation follows necessarily a change in moral judgement. Smith's thesis has been much criticised, by externalists and others. It leads us to think that his argument may not be that relevant, hence we have to ask us if Smith's argument against externalism works. [...]
[...] One very well known externalist counter- argument to the internalist position on moral motivation is David Brink's example of the amoralist. According to Brink in Externalist Moral Realism (1986), the existence of amoralists invalidates the internalist theory. Amoralist is someone who recognizes the existence of moral considerations and remains unmoved” (D. Brink, op. cit. page 30). In other words, the amoralist makes an ethical judgement but yet feels no motivation to act accordingly to that moral judgement. Amoralists make moral judgements without being motivated to act accordingly and nevertheless without being irrational. [...]
[...] To illustrate this idea, Smith draws a parallel between this kind of desire for the good de dicto and an example chosen by Bernard Williams against ethical impartiality and deems the good person in an externalist view of thought too many”. As a matter of a fact, the externalist morally good person will not do a right thing because he or she feels directly concerned by what it would be applied to, but derive the desire to do it from another non-derivative desire to do what he or she judges to be right. [...]
[...] There are different types of internalism, each one characterised by the strength of the link between moral judgement and motivation. The thesis of the strongest form of internalism can be defined by the fact that if an agent judges that it is right to X in a situation then he or she will be inevitably motivated to X in S. This relationship between belief and motivation is an indefeasible one which does not consider the possibility of a “weakness of will or the like” (M. [...]
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