Philosophical Studies

, Volume 148, Issue 3, pp 343–367

Clearing conceptual space for cognitivist motivational internalism


DOI: 10.1007/s11098-008-9331-0

Cite this article as:
Bromwich, D. Philos Stud (2010) 148: 343. doi:10.1007/s11098-008-9331-0


Cognitivist motivational internalism is the thesis that, if one believes that 'It is right to ϕ', then one will be motivated to ϕ. This thesis—which captures the practical nature of morality—is in tension with a Humean constraint on belief: belief cannot motivate action without the assistance of a conceptually independent desire. When defending cognitivist motivational internalism it is tempting to either argue that the Humean constraint only applies to non-moral beliefs or that moral beliefs only motivate ceteris paribus. But succumbing to the first temptation places one under a burden to justify what is motivationally exceptional about moral beliefs and succumbing to the second temptation saddles one with a thesis that fails to do justice to the practicality intuition that cognitivist motivational internalism is suppose to capture. In this paper, I offer a way of defending cognitivist motivational internalism, which does not require accepting that there is anything motivationally unusual about moral beliefs. I argue that no belief satisfies the Humean constraint: all beliefs are capable of motivating without the assistance of a conceptually independent desire.


Cognitivist motivational internalism Humean theory of motivation Belief Desire Moral motivation 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for EthicsUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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