Motivational internalism is a view about moral language or evaluative language in general and its relation to motivation. According to motivational internalism, if someone says 'x is good' but is not in the least motivated to pursue x, then that person is either insincere or not a competent user of the language. This is not supposed to be a fact about human psychology (that all humans pursue the good), but rather a claim about how the word 'good' works: something good is something which is to be pursued, so if you call something 'good' without taking it to be something to be pursued (i.e. being motivated to pursue it) then you are not using the word 'good' correctly.
I believe Berkeley endorses this view in his "Manuscript Introduction." The "Manuscript Introduction" is an earlier version of what eventually became the Introduction to the Principles. It appears to be a fairly polished piece of writing which Berkeley thought was quite close to ready for publication. However, he apparently changed his mind, because the published Introduction has some fairly significant differences, some substantive, some stylistic, and some strategic. Anyway, in the "Manuscript Introduction," Berkeley is concerned about the meaning of the phrase 'good things' in the claim that "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Cor. 2:9). This is an odd thing to wonder since the phrase 'good things' does not actually appear in the text; Berkeley misquotes it. Anyway, the point is, there is supposed to be this promise of a heavenly reward, or good things, but the reward, the good things, are such as 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man' - i.e. things of which we have no idea. How, then, can the Apostle's words be significant? As Berkeley notes, Locke would of course say that we have abstract general ideas of goodness and thinghood, even though we don't have particular ideas of the good things in question here. Berkeley rejects this view. Here's his alternative account:
Upon mention of a Reward to A Man for his pains and perseverance in any occupation whatsoever, it seems to me that divers things do ordinarily ensue. For there may be excited in his Understanding an Idea of the particular good thing to him proposed for a Reward. There may also ensue thereupon an Alacrity and Steddiness in fulfilling those Conditions on which it is to be obtain'd, together with a zealous desire of serving and pleasing the Person in whose Power it is to bestow that good Thing. All these things, I say, may and often do follow upon the pronunciation of those words that declare the Recompence. Now I do not see any reason why the latter may not happen without the former. What is it that Hinders why a Man may not be stirr'd up to diligence and zeal in his Duty by being told he shall have a good Thing for his Reward, tho' at the same time there be excited in his Mind no other Idea than barely those of Sounds or Characters? When he was a Child he had frequently heard those Words used to him to create in him an obedience to the Commands of those that spoke them. And as he grew up he has found by experience that upon the mentioning of those Words by an honest Man it has been his Interest to have doubled his Zeal and Activity for the service of that Person. Thus there having grown up in his Mind a Customary Connexion betwixt the hearing that Proposition and being dispos'd to obey with chearfulness the Injunctions that accompany it. methinks it might be made use of tho' not to introduce into his mind any Idea marked by the Words Good thing yet to excite in him a willingness to perform that which is required of him. And this seems to me all that is design'd by the Speaker except only wn he intends those words shall signifie the Idea of some particular thing. (MI 37)
Return to blog.kennypearce.net