Moral Reasons—Internal and External <sup>*</sup>

David B. Wong

in Natural Moralities

Published in print August 2006 | ISBN: 9780195305395
Published online September 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199786657 | DOI:
  Moral Reasons—Internal and External  *

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This chapter addresses the question how deeply moral reasons relate to human motivation through discussing the debate over internalism and externalism in ethics. Internalists on moral reasons hold that an agent’s having a reason to act requires that it be based in some motive that she already has, while externalists deny the necessary relation. The position defended here is externalist about reasons, but it specifies an intelligible relation between external reasons and the possibility of agents acting on them. Recognition of a moral reason to help another, for example, can become embedded during moral learning in the intentional objects of prior motivational propensities to respond to the suffering of others. Because they become embedded in and function to channel pre-existing motivations, reasons are external to any particular individual’s pre-existing motivations, but they must be internal to the general motivational capabilities of human nature.

Keywords: externalism; human nature; internalism; intentional objects; motivational propensities; reasons

Chapter.  11763 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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