Moral internalism : An Essay in Moral Psychology

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Philosophy, Stockholm University

Abstract: An ancient but central divide in moral philosophy concerns the nature of opinions about what is morally wrong or what our moral duties are. Some philosophers argue that moral motivation is internal to moral opinions: that moral opinions consist of motivational states such as desires or emotions. This has often been seen as a threat to the possibility of rational argument and justification in morals. Other philosophers argue that moral motivation is external to moral opinion: moral opinions should be seen as beliefs about moral reality, beliefs which may or may not motivate depending on whether the person holding them cares about moral matters.In this essay it is argued that although the traditional case for the internalist position fails, the total available evidence and methodological considerations support an internalist theory formulated in terms of a relatively rich psychological model. It is shown how such a theory can explain not only the practical character of moral opinions and their connection to moral emotions but also phenomena that have been taken to suggest an externalist picture, such as the role of inference, inconsistency, argument and explanations in moral discussion, as well as cases of amoralism and psychological disturbance. In the end, it is concluded that externalist explanations of the same phenomena are methodologically inferior for postulating a more complicated psychology.

  This dissertation MIGHT be available in PDF-format. Check this page to see if it is available for download.