This essay examines the thought that our right actions have moral worth only if we perform them for the right reasons. It argues against the view, often ascribed to Kant, that morally worthy actions must be performed because they are right and argues that Kantians and others ought instead to accept the view that morally worthy actions are those performed for the reasons why they are right. In other words, morally worthy actions are those for which the reasons why they were performed (the reasons motivating them) and the reasons why they morally ought to have been performed (the reasons morally justifying them) coincide. The essay calls this the Coincident Reasons Thesis and argues that it provides plausible necessary and sufficient conditions for morally worthy action, defending the claim against proposed counterexamples. It ends by showing that the plausibility of the thesis, which it argues is largely independent of any particular ethical standpoint, gives us some reason to doubt a class of ethical theories that includes utilitarianism.
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Julia Markovits; Acting for the Right Reasons. The Philosophical Review 1 April 2010; 119 (2): 201–242. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00318108-2009-037
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