This question lies at the heart of a complex philosophical debate. Motivational externalists (in one sense of the term) argue that it is possible for an agent to hold a moral belief in the absence of any corresponding motivation. It could be that the agent genuinely believes she has this moral obligation but simply doesn’t care at all about what she is morally obligated to do. By contrast, motivational internalists argue that such a belief would be impossible. On this latter view, it is necessarily the case that if an agent believes she is morally obligated to do something, she is at least somewhat motivated to do it.
Although work in this area draws on numerous different kinds of considerations, one important form of argument involves appeals to people’s ordinary intuitions. It is with regard to this one form of argument that we have seen especially impressive progress over the past few years. There has been a real surge of research involving systematic experimental studies about people’s intuitions on this question, and we now know far more about the intuitive view bout these matters than we did even a couple of years ago.
So I was thinking that it might be a good idea to try to put together a summary of some of the key recent findings on this topic. I’ve included a draft of such a summary below. Please write in if you have done some other work that should be added in, or if there is anything I should change in what is already there. (I will be happy to add in further information as it appears.) And more importantly, feel free to write in if you have any thoughts about how these findings might or might not be relevant to the larger philosophical debate.
Ok, here is the summary:
Leben, D. & Wilckens, K. (forthcoming). Pushing the Intuitions Behind Moral Internalism. Philosophical Psychology.