Advertisement

Philosophical Studies

, Volume 175, Issue 2, pp 531–552 | Cite as

Same duties, different motives: ethical theory and the phenomenon of moral motive pluralism

  • Hugh BreakeyEmail author
Article
  • 388 Downloads

Abstract

Viewed in its entirety, moral philosophizing, and the moral behavior of people throughout history, presents a curious puzzle. On the one hand, interpersonal duties display a remarkably stable core content: morality the world over enjoins people to keep their word; refrain from violence, theft and cheating; and help those in need. On the other hand, the asserted motives that drive people’s moral actions evince a dazzling diversity: from empathy or sympathy, to practical or prudential reason, to custom and honor, cultural identity, excellence and independence, faith and spirituality, narrative and beauty, and more besides. I term this twin phenomenon—a core of fixed moral duties driven by diverse motives—“moral motive pluralism.” In this article, I marshal evidence to show the prevalence of the phenomenon. Contrary to widespread assumptions, across generations and cultures, diverse motives drive different people to perform their moral duties. But despite this diversity, each different motive impels conscientious compliance with the same core moral duties. I argue this phenomenon undermines key types of evidence commonly employed to justify popular moral philosophies, and provides us with reason to seriously consider certain sorts of ethical theories—especially “functionalist” accounts of morality.

Keywords

Moral motivation Moral pluralism Functionalism Moral psychology Overlapping consensus Global ethic 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This article was many years in the making, and it is impossible here to acknowledge all those whose helpful contributions spurred its development. But particular thanks go to the philosophy cohort at The University of Queensland, and to Michael Vincent, Dave Kinkead, Paul Formosa and (especially) Rachael Briggs, whose penetrating criticisms honed much of the argument presented in Sect. 3.

References

  1. Acharya, A. (2004). How ideas spread: Whose norms matter? Norm localization and institutional change in Asian regionalism. International Organization, 58(2), 239–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aristotle. (350BC/2002). Nicomachean ethics (J. Sachs, Trans.). Newbury, MA: Focus Publishing/R. Pullins.Google Scholar
  3. Beauchamp, T. L., & Childress, J. (2009). Principles of biomedical ethics (6th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Beitz, C. (2009). The idea of human rights. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bok, S. (2002). Common values. London: University of Missouri Press.Google Scholar
  6. Brink, D. O. (1984). Moral realism and the sceptical arguments from disagreement and queerness. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 62, 111–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buchanan, A. (2010). Human rights, legitimacy and the use of force. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Diessner, R., Solom, R. C., Frost, N. K., Parsons, L., & Davidson, J. (2008). Engagement with beauty: Appreciating natural, artistic, and moral beauty. The Journal of Psychology, 142(3), 303–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Finnemore, M., & Sikkink, K. (1998). International norm dynamics and political change. International Organisation, 52(4), 887–917.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Francén, R. (2010). Moral motivation pluralism. Journal of Ethics, 14, 117–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gert, B. (2004). Common morality: Deciding what to do. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gibbs, J. (2010). Moral development and reality: Beyond the theories of Kohlberg and Hoffman (2nd ed.). Boston: Penguin Academics.Google Scholar
  13. Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Glendon, M. A. (2001). A world made new: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  15. Haakonssen, K. (1996). Natural law and moral philosophy: From Grotius to the Scottish Enlightenment. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Haidt, J. (2012). The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  17. Haidt, J., & Joseph, C. (2004). How innately prepared intuitions generate culturally variable virtues. Daedalus, 133(4), 55–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Herman, B. (1993). The practice of moral judgment. London: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Hobbes, T. (1651/2008). Leviathan. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Hume, D. (1739/1969). A treatise of human nature. Baltimore, Md.: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  21. Hume, D. (1993). An enquiry concerning human understanding. Cambridge: Hackett.Google Scholar
  22. Ignatieff, M. (2001). Human rights as politics and idolatry. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Kant, I. (1785/2008). The moral law: Groundwork of the metaphysic of morals (H. Paton, Trans.). New York: Hutchinson’s University Library.Google Scholar
  24. Kolnai, A. (1970). Moral consensus. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 70, 93–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Küng, H. (1998). A global ethic for global politics and economics. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Locke, J. (1690). An essay concerning human understanding (2nd ed.). London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
  27. MacIntyre, A. (1981). After virtue: A study in moral theory. London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
  28. Mill, J. S. (1859/2003). On liberty. Cambridge: Hackett.Google Scholar
  29. Mill, J. S. (1861/2001). Utilitarianism (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Hackett.Google Scholar
  30. Nichols, S. (2004). Sentimental rules: On the natural foundations of moral judgment. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nietzsche, F. (1887/1996). On the genealogy of morals (D. Smith, Trans.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Rawls, J. (1993/2005). Political liberalism (Expanded ed.). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Rest, J. (1992). Morality. In P. Mussen (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology (4th ed., Vol. III, pp. 556–629). New York: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  34. Rest, J. (1994). Background: Theory and research. In J. Rest & D. Narvez (Eds.), Moral development in the professions. London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  35. Risse, T., Ropp, S. C., & Sikkink, K. (Eds.). (1999). The power of human rights: International norms and domestic change. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Rokeach, M. (1976). Beliefs, attitudes and values: A theory of organization and change. London: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Google Scholar
  37. Shue, H. (1980). Basic rights: Subsistence, affluence and US foreign policy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Slote, M. (2007). The ethics of care and empathy. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Smith, A. (1790/2006). The theory of moral sentiments (6th ed.). Mineola, New York: Dover Publications.Google Scholar
  40. Walzer, M. (2000). Just and unjust wars (3rd ed.). New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  41. Wiggins, D. (2005). Objectivity in ethics. Ratio, 18, 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Williams, B. (2002). Truth & truthfulness: An essay in genealogy. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Wong, D. B. (2009). Natural moralities: A defense of pluralistic relativism. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law Futures Centre, Institute for Ethics, Governance and LawGriffith UniversityNathanAustralia

Personalised recommendations