Because I Believe It’s the Right Thing to Do

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (4):791-808 (2013)
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Abstract

Our beliefs about which actions we ought to perform clearly have an effect on what we do. But so-called “Humean” theories—holding that all motivation has its source in desire—insist on connecting such beliefs with an antecedent motive. Rationalists, on the other hand, allow normative beliefs a more independent role. I argue in favor of the rationalist view in two stages. First, I show that the Humean theory rules out some of the ways we ordinarily explain actions. This shifts the burden of proof onto Humeans to motivate their more restrictive, revisionary account. Second, I show that they are unlikely to discharge this burden because the key arguments in favor of the Humean theory fail. I focus on some of the most potent and most recent lines of argument, which appeal to either parsimony, the teleological nature of motivation, or the structure of practical reasoning

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Joshua May
University of Alabama, Birmingham

Citations of this work

One Thought Too Few: Where De Dicto Moral Motivation is Necessary.Ron Aboodi - 2017 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20 (2):223-237.
How Verbal Reports of Desire May Mislead.Alex Gregory - 2017 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 6 (4):241-249.
Do Moral Beliefs Motivate Action?Rodrigo Díaz - 2023 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 26 (3):377-395.
Getting Less Cynical about Virtue.Joshua May - 2017 - In Walter Sinnott-Armstrong & Christian Miller (eds.), Moral Psychology, Volume V: Virtue and Character. MIT Press. pp. 45-52.
Norms for pure desire.Victor M. Verdejo - forthcoming - Theoria. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science.

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References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
The moral problem.Michael Smith - 1994 - Cambridge, Mass., USA: Blackwell.
A treatise of human nature.David Hume & A. D. Lindsay - 1977 - New York: Dutton. Edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge & P. H. Nidditch.
Actions, Reasons, and Causes.Donald Davidson - 1963 - Journal of Philosophy 60 (23):685.
Individualism and the mental.Tyler Burge - 1979 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4 (1):73-122.

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