Incentives and praise compared: the ethics of motivation

  • Ruth W. Grant
Research Article

The essays in this volume explore the relationship between morality and various kinds of motivation. Most people have a strong intuition that there is a relationship between morality and motivation: to be virtuous requires not only that we do the right thing but also that we do it for the right reason. In fact, we are often willing to excuse someone who did the wrong thing, if they did it for the right reason. A person’s characteristic motivations are part of what we call “moral character.” It matters for moral character whether a person is responding to incentives, seeking praise, avoiding blame, being guided by a sense of guilt or responsibility, and so on.

The focus of this discussion will be a comparison of two very different types of motivation: incentives and praise. This may be surprising. It is very commonly believed that praise is actually just one form of incentive. Incentives are extrinsic motivations. They induce people to act by offering something desirable that is not...


Incentives Motivation Adam Smith John Locke Praise 

JEL Classification

A13 B10 B12 B15 B20 B25 N00 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Duke UniversityDurhamUSA

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