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Arts & Letters Daily


5c. Motive - Drama teacher


Morally good and virtuous people


Duty. Ms. Smith, the Drama teacher, was frustrated. She felt she had a duty to allow students, who found the course language in Of Mice and Men offensive, the option to read an alternative novel because she had promised their parents that their students would have that option. She would have to prepare a new set of Lessons and Assignments for these three students. Where would she find the time to do this when the rehearsals for the live performance of Of Mice and Men were taking so much of her out-of-class time? She knew she had a duty to teach all students in her class, but, did she really have a duty to prepare and teach an alternative novel to three students?

Rights. Ms. Smith of courses recognized that all students in her class were entitled to receive instruction; they were duly registered in her English course. But, were they entitled to individualized instruction across several novels at any given time?

Motive. Although she does not always do the right thing, Ms. Smith regards herself as someone who tries to do what she believes is right. She recognized that she does not always do the right thing, but, she normally and regularly tries to do what is right from a morally good motive. That’s why she agonizes over this situation in her classroom. She wants to do right by all of her students.


  • What if Ms. Smith frequently had run-ins with parents of her students? What would you suggest? Would you consider her misguided?
  • Discuss other situations where people use this kind of thinking.

You may want to discuss other dilemmas.

Consider this view about morally good people

  • Crooked thinking

A morally good person is someone who does what he believes is right.

  • Straight thinking

‘Morally good’and ‘virtuous’ are not only applied to action and motives, they are also applied to people and the character of people. A morally good person is someone who has a disposition to do what he believes is right. This is not the same as to say that he must always do the right thing. In fact, all that is expected is that he normally and regularly tries to do what is right from a morally good motive. What if he is often mistaken about what he believes to be right but he pursues it from a morally good motive? Clearly such action would not be morally good but the person would not be considered morally bad but he would be considered to be misguided. It might be said about such a person “Re means well but he is misguided”. The extent of the mistake would affect one’s judgement about such a person. The degree of wrongness will be discussed later when degrees of moral goodness and badness are discussed.

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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