Well, after a long drive, a tense week in a motel, an extended unpacking period, and a series of orientation sessions at BGSU, I’m happy to say I’m back on the blogosphere again. I wanted to extend a belated welcome to our recent additions Scott, Troy, and Michael. Welcome aboard! There have been a number of interesting and sharp posts while I was away, and your addition has contributed significantly to that trend. I have a number of ideas I hope to post in the weeks to come, but for now I figured I’d ask a question about moral motivation on which I’d like some feedback. What precisely is it that triggers the mechanisms involved in moral deliberation? In other words, we go about the living of our lives, addressing our day-to-day practical concerns (getting milk from the fridge, sitting down at the computer to do some work, shopping, going to see a movie, etc.), but then there are moments in which we are moved to deliberate about the specifically moral import of our actions. When/why does that happen? The answer to this question goes to the heart of the proper formulation of a normative ethical theory, it seems. T.M. Scanlon, for example, in both his “Contractualism and Utilitarianism” and his What We Owe to Each Other, claims the source of moral motivation (the desire/the reason to want to be able to justify one’s action to all similarly motivated others) is triggered by the thought that some proposed action would be wrong. This seems correct: the default seems to be that we go ahead and do what we do until the thought that something might be wrong crops up to stop us in our tracks. This view, however, is contrary to the assumption by many that the source of moral motivation is somehow triggered by thoughts about what the right thing to do would be. Thus most ethical theories are formulated in terms of rightness (whereas Scanlon’s is formulated in terms of wrongness, i.e., “an act is wrong if it would be disallowed by principles that no one could reasonably reject”). Now one can always simply stick a negation in front of the proposed “wrong act” to get the formulation to apply to the case in terms of rightness (as long as rightness and wrongness are contradictories), but this seems an indirect move that misses the import of the Scanlonian claim: morality comes up for deliberation only as a “check” on our ordinary practical living, rather than as a positive guide to our everyday lives. Thoughts?