, Volume 152, Issue 3, pp 353–370 | Cite as

Moral internalism and moral cognitivism in Hume’s metaethics

  • Elizabeth S. RadcliffeEmail author
Original Paper


Most naturalists think that the belief/desire model from Hume is the best framework for making sense of motivation. As Smith has argued, given that the cognitive state (belief) and the conative state (desire) are separate on this model, if a moral judgment is cognitive, it could not also be motivating by itself. So, it looks as though Hume and Humeans cannot hold that moral judgments are states of belief (moral cognitivism) and internally motivating (moral internalism). My chief claim is that the details of Hume’s naturalistic philosophy of mind actually allow for a conjunction of these allegedly incompatible views. This thesis is significant, since readers typically have thought that Hume’s view that motivation is not produced by representations, coupled with his view that moral judgments motivate on their own, imply that moral judgments could never take the form of beliefs about, or representations of, the moral (virtue and vice).


Cognitivism Hume Internalism Metaethics Morality Motivation 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySanta Clara UniversitySanta ClaraUSA

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