Externalism, Motivation, and Moral Knowledge

In Susana Nuccetelli & Gary Seay (eds.), Ethical Naturalism: Current Debates. Cambridge University Press (2011)
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For non-analytic ethical naturalists, externalism about moral motivation is an attractive option: it allows naturalists to embrace a Humean theory of motivation while holding that moral properties are real, natural properties. However, Michael Smith has mounted an important objection to this view. Smith observes that virtuous agents must have non-derivative motivation to pursue specific ends that they believe to be morally right; he then argues that this externalist view ascribes to the virtuous agent only a direct de dicto desire to do what is morally right, but not a direct motivation to be kind, help those in need, et. I first clarify this “fetishism objection”; I then show how the non-analytical naturalist can provide an understanding of virtuous motivation that is immune to this objection.

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Sergio Tenenbaum
University of Toronto, Mississauga


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