chapter  2
8 Pages

Dispersal into accidentalism

Falk, renowned2 for having introduced into contemporary moral debate those now ubiquitous terms ‘internal’ and ‘external’, uses them with the meaning internal or external to an agent, to distinguish between two types of analysis of moral obligation. Those offering an ‘internal fact’ analysis hold that a moral agent must look inside herself – to her state of mind, feelings, motives – to discover whether she is obliged to act. ‘External fact’ analysts, however, require her to look outside herself – to an objective state of affairs. Falk illustrates the former by reference to Butler for whom, he states (1945: 129), to know that an act is our duty is to ‘realize that our nature demands it of us’. Falk observes, however, that the ‘external fact’ analysts will differ as to how they identify the relevant objective state of affairs. Moral rationalists, such as Clarke, and moral intuitionists, such as Ross, will point to the possession by the required action of the peculiar and not further analysable property of ‘fittingness’ to the circumstances. Prichard, also an intuitionist, prefers to speak directly of an action’s ‘rightness’ or ‘obligatoriness’ (coming later to regard it as mistaken to apply even these predicates to the action itself). Utilitarians by contrast will point to the action’s capacity to maximize overall happiness or welfare.