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Motivational internalism and folk intuitions
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies. Göteborgs universitet.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3112-0673
Göteborgs universitet.
Universitetet i Oslo.
Göteborgs universitet.
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2015 (English)In: Philosophical Psychology, ISSN 0951-5089, E-ISSN 1465-394X, Vol. 28, no 5, 715-734 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Motivational internalism postulates a necessary connection between moral judgments and motivation. In arguing for and against internalism, metaethicists traditionally appeal to intuitions about cases, but crucial cases often yield conflicting intuitions. One way to try to make progress, possibly uncovering theoretical bias and revealing whether people have conceptions of moral judgments required for noncognitivist accounts of moral thinking, is to investigate non-philosophers' willingness to attribute moral judgments. A pioneering study by Shaun Nichols seemed to undermine internalism, as a large majority of subjects were willing to attribute moral understanding to an agent lacking moral motivation. However, our attempts to replicate this study yielded quite different results, and we identified a number of problems with Nichols' experimental paradigm. The results from a series of surveys designed to rule out these problems (a) show that people are more willing to attribute moral understanding than moral belief to agents lacking moral motivation, (b) suggest that a majority of subjects operate with some internalist conceptions of moral belief, and (c) are compatible with the hypothesis that an overwhelming majority of subjects do this. The results also seem to suggest that if metaethicists’ intuitions are theoretically biased, this bias is more prominent among externalists.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 28, no 5, 715-734 p.
Keyword [en]
internalism, moral motivation, amoralists, experimental philosophy
National Category
Research subject
Practical Philosophy
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-97671DOI: 10.1080/09515089.2014.894431ISI: 000352914900005OAI: diva2:775563
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2015-01-03 Created: 2015-01-03 Last updated: 2015-05-21Bibliographically approved

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Björnsson, Gunnar
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