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What Is The Best Way Of Accounting For The Over Determination Of Dutiful Actions?

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Overdetermination of dutiful actions occurs when dutiful actions are done from the motive of duty where the agent also has nonmoral interests in the action (Herman: 6) and according to Kant although this action might be dutiful and amiable it is still of no moral worth. For example a man who does acts of good will and gets a feeling of satisfaction from doing them is not acting morally. In the same way that a soldier saves another soldiers with only an inclination that he will get a medal is also not morally dutiful.

So how can we have Overdetermined dutiful moral actions?

Henson attempts to get around Kant's rather stark doctrine by saying that a dutiful act would have moral worth provided that respect for duty was present and would have sufficed by itself to produce the dutiful act, even though other motives were also present and might themselves have sufficed (Herman: 7). For example the brave dutiful soldier who saves one of his brothers in arms from certain death despite danger to himself. According to Henson GI Joe's action are morally dutiful as long as he acted from moral duty.

Thus over determined actions can be morally good as long as the duty motive is able by itself to produce the action. This then can be interpreted in two ways; either it is strong enough by itself to cause the action and does not require any other inclinations to carry it out i.e.GI Jane is a friend. Or it could be that it is strong enough to prevail over a clashing motive so that the morally dutiful action can occur i.e. I'm going to get myself shot if I save her. (Herman: 8)

However Herman disagreesÐ'...

Take the shopkeeper whose honest actions are overdetermined for example. According to Henson's model the shopkeeper has sufficient moral motives to perform honest actions even if the profit motive is absent. However we cannot be sure that he would act the same way in other situations where profit motivates him to act immorally. Thus it is possible that the shopkeeper could have accidentally acted morally, maybe the only reason he acted dutifully was because there was no conflict with the profit motive as his actions would ensure that the client came back thus increasing his profits in the long run. So we cannot be sure of his moral worth as he could have accidentally acted morally. Another example of this would be, GI Joe knowingly gets a medal for his actions; did he act because it was morally right, or because he would get a medal, or was it because of both inclinations? (Henson: 9).

Herman retorts by saying that if in other circumstances the motive of duty was present and was able to overcome the conflicting motives and produce the dutiful action then the action is morally dutiful. However this posses another problem for Herman because why should my failure in getting my work in on time this time take away from the times that I did get my work in on time, or why should GI Joes not saving another soldier (GI Cannonfodder) in other circumstances where it would be madness to attempt the rescue take away from his saving GI Jane? Why should a moral motive have to be strong enough to prevail in different circumstances in order to attribute moral worth to an action now? (Lecture notes). Thus Herman's sufficiency of the moral motive is not a good way of resolving Overdetermination.

Another way of attempting to deal with Overdetermination is acting from the motive of duty. When we act it is possible to have both moral and non-moral motives and if it is the moral motive which causes the agent to act when he acts morally and thus there is also no accident problem as in the first model because it is either the moral motive that causes the act or not thus once the act occurs we can be sure that the person did morally dutiful thing. For example save GI Jane on one hand, or flee on the other.

The problem with this attempt is how can there be a motive present that doesn't operate (cause an action). Why is it that only the moral motive works and not the immoral one as well? It is at this point that we should understand the difference between motive and an incentive.

Ð'* Incentive: The things that prompt us to act in certain ways. When we take one of these as a reason to act it becomes a motive.

Ð'* Motive: the reason for our action. When this motive becomes a rule we call it a Maxim i.e. when this happens we do this.

Thus in actual fact it is when we decide on a moral incentive to be our motive that we can say that our action was morally good and so we can choose



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