Goodness and motivation

Thomas Pink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


To be moral is to be moved to act by reason; and to be moved to act by reason is to be moved by the good. But if reason moves us, what is the nature of its power to move? And what role does goodness play? These questions about rational motivation became a matter of fierce contention in the early modern period. An established theory of how reason moves us–the theory defended by late scholastics such as Suarez–met destructive opposition, from Hobbes, and this opposition eventually put the very possibility of rational motivation in doubt. Two questions were debated. The first was about power. Was there a power of reason to move us or was all power ordinary causation? The second was about the relation between morality as a motivating source of direction, and morality as a set of appraisive standards. Is one of these two aspects of morality primary and explanatory of the other as secondary to it? Or is one of these aspects even an illusion? Hobbes’ answers to these two questions threatened a complete ethical scepticism. Hume avoided this complete ethical scepticism, but at the price of a scepticism about practical reason in particular.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-20
Number of pages16
JournalPhilosophical Explorations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2021


  • causation
  • Hobbes
  • Hume
  • normativity
  • practical reason
  • Suárez


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