Skip to main content
Read page text

There is another way of understanding the

“ought” of moral motivation critically scrutinise its motivations, the dog has (ii) no control over those motivations, and so (iii) cannot be held responsible for them. But, (iv) ought implies can: without responsibility there can be no moral behaviour. Therefore, (v) animals cannot act morally.

Nevertheless, despite its widespread acceptance, I think this orthodoxy can be challenged in at least two ways. The first challenge focuses on the idea of critical scrutiny of motivations and, in particular the idea that we can explain control over motivations in terms of our ability to critically scrutinise them. There is a type of problem that afflicts certain sorts of attempted explanations. It is called a regress, and it happens when an explanation doesn’t do the job it is supposed to do but merely defers the question – pushes the issue back a step. This sort of problem arguably afflicts the idea that we can explain control in terms of critical scrutiny. Suppose I am inclined to help a dog I see lying unconscious in the middle of a busy road. Do I have control over this inclination? According to the standard philosophical view, I have control over it as long as I am capable of critically scrutinising it – of asking myself whether I should act on this inclination or resist it.

But suppose I have no control over the answer I give to this question? Much recent work in psychology – of a broadly situationist sort – suggests that the answer I give to these sorts of iaCommons)

imed ik iaW


t h o u g h t s /

m o r alani m al s


Lassie flies with Robert Bray (1967)

1ST QUARTER 2014 tpm

My Bookmarks

    Skip to main content