Why Good People Reevaluate Underived Moral Beliefs?

Ron Aboodi

Are good people motivated to behave in accordance the moral truth whatever it is? Michael Smith, who has named this motivation the de-dicto moral motivation, famously criticized it. According to Smith, good people are instead motivated directly by more concrete moral concerns, such as “the well-being of their fellows, people getting what they deserve, justice, equality, and the like”. Here I argue for the non-Smithian view that good people have (also) a de-dicto moral motivation. The argument runs roughly as follows: given that good people tend to behave appropriately, and that in some situations it is appropriate to reevaluate one’s underived moral beliefs, good people tend to seriously reevaluate underived moral beliefs sometimes. Theories of motivation have to account for this fact (a point overlooked by Smith and his respondents). What motivates a good person to pay attention to evidence that is contrary to her underived moral beliefs? What does she aim for in reevaluating those beliefs? I argue that the view that good people are motivated to act morally de-dicto is in a better position to explain the relevant facts about good people’s reevaluation of underived moral beliefs.

November, 2013