Acta Analytica

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 59–79 | Cite as

Moral coherence, moral worth and explanations of moral motivation

  • Aristophanes Koutoungos


Moral internalism and moral externalism compete over the best explanation of the link between judgment and relevant motivation but, it is argued, they differ at best only verbally. The internalist rational-conceptual nature of the link’ as accounted by M. Smith in The Moral Problem is contrasted to the externalist, also rational, link that requires in addition support from the agent’s psychological-dispositional profile; the internalist link, however, is found to depend crucially on a, similarly to the externalist, psychologically ‘loaded’ profile. It is also argued that the differentiation of the two competing explanations is insufficient partly because they both fail to consider crucial quantitative parameters of the judgment-motivation link. Such parameters become very important particularly in the light of Smith’s claim that this link is grounded on the observable “striking fact” where changes in the set of one’s moral beliefs systematically bring about changes in one’s moral behavior. Examples of algorithms measuring moral coherence and moral worth are provided to serve as evidence for what it comes down to, vis-à-vis the alleged fact, only a verbal dispute between the two camps. Finally, the ‘misfiring’ of these explanations is understood in connection to the irreducibility of concepts such as ‘moral worth’, and/or, ‘moral sensitivity’.


internalism externalism motivation desire rational reduction 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Brady, M. 2000: ‘How to understand Internalism’, The Philosophical Quarterly.Google Scholar
  2. 2003: ‘Valuing, Desiring and Normative Priority’, The Philosophical Quarterly 53, 211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. FitzPatrick, J. W. 2004: ‘Reasons, Value, and Particular Agents: Normative Relevance without Motivational Internalism’, Mind 113, 450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. McDowell, J. 1980: ‘The Role of Eudaimonia in Aristotle’s Ethics’, in Rorty, Amelie Oksenberg (ed), Essays On Aristotle’s Ethics. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  5. Lenman, J. 2002: ‘Non-Cognitivism and the Dimensions of Evaluative Judgment’, in Review of M. Smith: ‘Evaluation, Uncertainty and Motivation’, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 5. Also, in:, 3–4.Google Scholar
  6. Miller, A. 1996: ‘An Objection to Smith’s Argument for Internalism’, Analysis 56, 3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Nagel, T. 1970: The Possibility of Altruism, Princeton Univ. Press.Google Scholar
  8. Ridge, M. 2003: ‘Certitude, Importance and Robustness for Non-Cognitivists’, BEARS: Symposium on M. Smith, Commentator on M. Smith’s [2002], in:, p. 4.Google Scholar
  9. Sayre-McCord, G. 1997: ‘The Meta-ethical Problem’, Ethics, 108, 55–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Smith, M. 1994: The Moral Problem, Blackwell, Oxford.Google Scholar
  11. 1996: ‘The argument for Internalism: A reply to Miller’, Analysis 56, 175–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 1997: ‘In Defense of the Moral Problem: A reply to Brink, Copp, and Sayre-McCord’, Ethics 108, 84–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 2002: ‘Evaluation, Uncertainty and Motivation’, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 5: 305–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Williams B. 1981: ‘Internal and External Reasons’, in his Moral Luck. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 101–13.Google Scholar
  15. 1995: ‘Internal Reasons and the Obscurity of Blame’, in his Making Sense of Humanity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 35–45.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aristophanes Koutoungos
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HumanitiesNational Technical University of AthensGreece

Personalised recommendations