Michael Smith Externalist

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Smith’s Externalist ‘Moral Fetishist’
A Critique of Smith’s depiction of the moral fetishist; the morally perfect person.


The argument between the internalists and externalists in metaethical moral psychology is one that is at a stalemate. One of the most important debates took place in Analysis between Michael Smith and Alexander MIller, both of whom seem to fail in presenting a wholly conclusive and convincing argument. This article will examine these arguments in turn - focussing primarily on Smith’s initial argument - and attempt to explain the flaws in each by committing to one criticism for each argument; that Miller’s conceptual criticism falls victim to the paradox of analysis, and that Smith’s depiction of the externalist …show more content…

If a good person is motivated in a de dicto sense to do what she believes to be right, then this alienates her from her moral goals; “it is constitutive of being a morally good person that you have direct concern for what you think is right, where this is read de re and not de dicto.” (Smith 1994: 76) The externalist would be acting morally for the sake of acting morally; giving a homeless man some food simply because it is the morally right thing to do, rather than out of direct and compassionate concern for him. This is incompatible with our ideas of human psychology and morality, and so the externalist has failed to explain the striking fact. Internalism, however, did not struggle to find an explanation. This is, basically, Smith’s argument in favour of weak internalism. In his 1996 work, ‘An objection to Smith’s argument for internalism’, Miller raised a serious, but not damning, objection to the ‘striking fact’ argument. He begins by praising Smith’s objection to the externalist explanation, which would seem to be correct. This, however, is where his praise stops. According to Miller, Smith fails to offer a convincing account from the perspective of the internalist, and so the internalist does not have an advantage over the externalist when it comes to explaining the changes in moral belief and motivation in the strong and good-willed …show more content…

ON the other hand, if the reliable connection between moral judgement and motivation in the strong willed person is merely empirical, then internalism cannot explain the connection, since the claim that the connection is merely empirical; amounts to a denial of internalism. Either way, the internalist has no explanation of the reliable connection in question.” (Miller 1996:

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