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What's Wrong with Moral Internalism

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Moral Internalism is the claim that it is a priori that moral beliefs are reasons for action. At least three conceptions of ‘reason’ may be disambiguated: psychological, epistemological, and purely ethical. The first two conceptions of Internalism are false on conceptual, and indeed empirical, grounds. On a purely ethical conception of ‘reasons’, the claim is true but is an Externalist claim. Positive arguments for Internalism — from phenomenology, connection and oddness — are found wanting. Three possible responses to the stock Externalist objections are uncovered and overturned. In so doing a close relation between Internalism and Behaviourism is revealed, and some stock anti-behaviouristic arguments are co-opted for Externalism. The likely dependence of Internalism on an Atomistic Associationism is uncovered and criticised. Internalism is seen as being ultimately a type of Ethical Determinism. Finally, a sketch of an Anti-Associative Externalism is given whereby the notion of self determination of action is put forward as an account of moral motivation fit to resist both the internalist and the belief-desire psychology premises of the stock non-cognitivist argument.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Psychology Department, University of Luton, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU1 3JU

Publication date: 1998-04-01

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