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Are Desires De Dicto Fetishistic?

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In The Moral Problem Michael Smith presents what he claims is a decisive argument against moral externalism. Smith's claims that (i) moral externalists are committed to explain the connection between moral beliefs and moral motivation in terms of de dicto desires, and (ii) de dicto desires to perform moral acts amounts to moral fetishism. The argument is spelled out and the difference between desires de dicto and desires de re explained. The tenability of the fetishist argument (as it has been named) is then questioned by focusing on the second clause; contrary to what Smith seems to think, it seems a plausible description of a good moral person that she is often motivated by both kinds of desires and, moreover, there are ways of being motivated to perform moral acts solely by de dicto desires that would not amount to moral fetishism. Lastly, two cases are suggested where being motivated by de dicto desires to perform moral acts would be reasonable as well as morally preferable. Internalists then, should also provide room for de dicto desires in moral motivation.The upshot is that the fetishist argument is unconvincing, though no attempt is made to defend moral externalism in general.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-03-01

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