Between Internalism and Externalism in Ethics



If internalism in ethics is correct, then moral beliefs necessarily motivate. Externalism rejects this thesis, holding that the relationship between beliefs and motives is only contingent. The position I develop is that both views are false. By defining a logical relationship between moral beliefs and motives that is weaker than logical necessitation, it is possible to maintain (contrary to internalism) that beliefs may occur without motives, but (contrary to externalism) that they cannot always do so. The logical point is explicated through a psychological interpretation of moral emotions that gives their constituent beliefs an inherent link to action, together with a semantic characterization of moral concepts that ties their competent use to familiarity with these emotions.