The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 117, Issue 10, October 2020

Jessica Isserow
Pages 529-556

Moral Worth: Having It Both Ways

It is commonly recognized that one can act rightly without being praiseworthy for doing so. Those who act rightly from ignoble motives, for instance, do not strike us as fitting targets of moral praise; their actions seem to lack moral worth. Though there is broad agreement that only certain kinds of motives confer moral worth on our actions, there is disagreement as to which ones are up to the task. Many theorists confine themselves to two possibilities: praiseworthy agents are thought to be motivated by either (1) the consideration that their actions are morally right, or (2) the considerations that explain why their actions are morally right (where the ‘or’ is exclusive). Though there is an important element of truth in these proposals, each has limited explanatory purchase. In this paper, I develop a pluralist conception of moral worth that acknowledges both sorts of motives as grounds for moral praise.