Praiseworthy Motivations

This paper is about which motivations are praiseworthy. I argue that if motivation by rightness de re is praiseworthy, then so is motivation by rightness de dicto. I think that intuitions to the contrary result either from poorly-constructed cases that do not present genuine minimal pairs, or from misunderstanding of a basic point about moral metaphysics. I argue that when we carefully compare correctly constructed cases, the minimal differences that do exist between these two types of moral motivation to do not seem to affect an agent's praiseworthiness. I also address the question of what we should say about agents who are well-meaning but morally mistaken, such that they are motivated to act rightly (or to be fair, or to be just, or to promote well-being, or etc.) but their trying to do so leads them in fact to act wrongly (to be unfair, to be unjust, to undermine well-being, etc.). I argue that such agents' motivations can still be praiseworthy.

Here's the paper.

I presented this paper at the Northwestern University Society for the Theory of Ethics and Politics (NUSTEP) conference 2016, and the Pittsburgh-CMU Graduate Conference 2016. A version of this paper was my writing sample for the job market.