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Arts & Letters Daily


4c. Motive - Community Volunteer


There are other good motives


Duty. A community volunteer, Jim, at Semple high school looked at the duty roster for volunteers in the Physical Education Department. He recognized some of the mundane duties from his days in high school … clean up the equipment, store the equipment just to mention a few. Then he spotted a new ‘duty’ on the roster … assist the basketball coach in home games. He said to himself, ‘That’s not a duty … I’d love to do that! Basketball is my favourite game.

Rights. Jim’s first reaction to the position of assisting the coach in home games was, ‘On what authority can I tell a player to do anything?’ The students will regard only the coach as someone who is knowledgeable about basketball strategies. No student will regard me as someone who has the right to tell them anything. So, how can I be an assistant coach?

Motive. Of course Jim would do his duty as an assistant coach. He does not want to be an assistant coach from a sense of duty. He wants to do it because he loves the game!


  • Think of other situations where naturally good motives might be used.
  • Can you think of situations where people might use naturally good motives when they should be considering morally good motives?
  • Discuss other situations where people use this kind of thinking.

You may want to discuss other dilemmas.

Consider this view of other good motives

  • Crooked thinking

All good motives are also morally good motives.

  • Straight thinking

There are other good motives besides the desire to do what is right or to do one’s duty but those other motives are not morally good motives. For example, ‘compassion’ and ‘love’ are good motives. The difference between a morally good motive and a good motive can be analyzed as follows:

There are a variety of good motives which must be distinguished from morally good motives. Some of these are compassion, love, generosity, kindness, and friendship. They are sometimes referred to as naturally good motives to distinguish them from morally good motives.

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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