The Motivation of the Moral Saint
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Susan Wolf argues that the moral saint’s single-minded pursuit of the general welfare precludes the pursuit of non-moral ends – including non-moral virtues, interests, activities, relationships, and so on – for their own sakes. A life devoid of every such pursuit seems importantly deficient.
Vanessa Carbonell argues that Wolf assumes a strictly de dicto reading of the moral saint’s motivation. Wolf claims that the moral saint’s only non-derivative motivation is the motivation to improve the general welfare, thus described. On this reading, the moral saint’s motivation to alleviate a particular person’s hunger is derived entirely from the more basic motivation to improve the general welfare. Hence, the moral saint does not count the fact that the person is hungry as a direct reason to act. This seems inconsistent, however, with expectations about how the moral saint responds to suffering.
Carbonell argues that this problem can be avoided if the moral saint’s motivation to...