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2c. Motive - Semple High School

Motive

What is a morally good motive?”

Dilemma

Duty. Mrs. Jones, who also had a daughter attending Semple High School, was pondering to herself about what to say to the school’s Principal that afternoon when she was determined to object to the use of John Steinbach’s novel, Of Mice and Men in English classes. She felt she was right to object to the use of foul language in the book in class. Adolescents hear enough bad language on the street and in public places. More than that, she felt she had a duty to raise her objections because she had a right to do so. She simply had to make her case, first to the Principal and if he fails to act on her objection, then to the Board.

Rights. On second thought, she asked herself, ‘Should I raise objections to the use of the novel or someone else who might be more qualified to discuss this issue with the Principal?’ She concluded that she probably should meet with the Principal because she had a right to do so.

Motive. Mrs. Jones really wanted to do what was is right; that’s why she kept on thinking about what she should say to the Principal. At times she felt it was her duty to confront the Principal since she had a right to object to the use of the novel in English class.

Discussion

  • Does Mrs. Jones have a duty to confront the Principal because she has a right to take issue with the use of the novel in English class? Explain.
  • Discuss other situations where people use this kind of thinking.

You may want to discuss other dilemmas.

Consider this view of morally good motive

  • Crooked thinking

A person who has a morally good motive acts simply on his belief that a certain act is right.

  • Straight thinking

A morally good motive must meet two conditions. A person who has a morally good motive must believe that a certain act is right and he must have a desire to do what is right or his duty. Just believing something is not a motive. “He did it just because he believed it was right” really means that he believed it and he wanted to do what is the right thing to do. “He did the right thing from a sense of duty” means that he believed it to be the right thing to do and he wanted to do the right thing. ”Wanting to do one’s duty” must be distinguished from “wanting to do what it is one’s duty to do”. A person need not want to do what he recognizes as being his duty, such as killing people in military combat. However, that same person may want to do his duty, such as defending his country in time of war.

On the other hand, “wanting to do what it is one’s duty to do” refers to a situation where a person has a certain duty to do and he wants to do it, regardless of the fact that it is his duty. For example, a physical education teacher may feel that it is his duty to coach hockey at the local community club. At the same time he may also want to coach hockey because he happens to enjoy the game.


Moral principle value tests

An application of the moral principle value tests probably illustrates most clearly what is entailed in evaluative reasoning. They are:

It is important to emphasize that the moral-value principle tests are not designed to resolve issues (guarantee right answers!) but to assess the ‘justification’ for moral value decisions.

To view the Dilemma from the perspective of Duty, Rights, Motives, Desert and Justice, click the following:

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