Internalism’s Wheel

Ratio 8 (3):277-302 (1995)
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If an agent judges that she morally ought to PHI in certain circumstances C then, according to internalists, absent practical irrationality, she must be motivated, to some extent, to PHI in C. Internalists thus accept what I have elsewhere called the ‘practicality requirement on moral judgement’. There are many different theories about the nature and content of moral judgement that aspire to explain and capture the truth embodied in internalism, and these theories share little in common beyond that aspiration. Worse still, as I will argue in what follows, these theories are perhaps best thought of as lying around the perimeter of a wheel, much like Fortune’s Wheel, with each theory that lies further on along the perimeter representing itself as motivated by difficulties that beset the theory that precedes it. The mere existence of Internalism’s Wheel need not pose a problem for internalists, of course. They may believe that the truth about ethics lies wherever Internalism’s Wheel stops spinning. But a problem evidently does arise if Internalism’s Wheel is in perpetual motion, for then the truth about ethics presumably lies nowhere at all on Internalism’s Wheel. Somewhat tentatively, then, my conclusion is that the nonreductive, non-relative version of the dispositional theory of value provides a stable stopping point for Internalism's Wheel.



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Michael Smith
Princeton University

References found in this work

Moral realism.Peter Railton - 1986 - Philosophical Review 95 (2):163-207.
Assertion.Peter Geach - 1965 - Philosophical Review 74 (4):449-465.
Skepticism about practical reason.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1986 - Journal of Philosophy 83 (1):5-25.
Outline of a decision procedure for ethics.John Rawls - 1951 - Philosophical Review 60 (2):177-197.
Desiring the bad: An essay in moral psychology.Michael Stocker - 1979 - Journal of Philosophy 76 (12):738-753.

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