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Internalism and the Good for a Person

Author(s): Connie S. Rosati


Source: Ethics, Vol. 106, No. 2 (Jan., 1996), pp. 297-326
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
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Internalism and the Good
for a Person*
Connie S. Rosati

Proponents of numerous recent theories of a person's good hold that


a plausible account of the good for a person must satisfy existence
internalism. The label 'existence internalism', hereafter 'internalism',
refers to the general thesis that there is a necessary connection between
motivation and normative status.' The thesis tells us that something

* I am grateful to Robert Audi, Stephen Darwall, Richard Dees, John Deigh, Don
Korobkin, and Richard Kraut for helpful comments and discussion of the ideas in the
article. Earlier versions were presented to the philosophy departments at the University
of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. My
thanks to members of these audiences for much instructive discussion. I would also
like to thank Don Hubin, an anonymous reader, and the editors of Ethics for their
thoughtful comments and suggestions.
1. The label comes from Stephen Darwall, who distinguishes existence internalism
from what he calls "judgment internalism." According tojudgment internalism, a neces-
sary connection exists between motivation and sincere avowal of a normative claim. See
Stephen L. Darwall, ImpartialReason (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983), pp.
54-55. I turn to the connection between existence and judgment internalism later. See
David 0. Brink, Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1989), p. 40, for a related distinction between what he calls "agent
internalism" and "appraiser internalism." For discussions of internalism with respect
to obligation and morality, see W. D. Falk, "'Ought' and Motivation," in Ought, Reasons,
and Morality (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1986), pp. 21-41; William K.
Frankena, "Motivation and Obligation in Recent Moral Philosophy," in Perspectiveson
Morality: Essays of William K. Frankena, ed. Kenneth E. Goodpaster (Notre Dame, Ind.:
University of Notre Dame Press, 1976), pp. 49-73; Kurt Baier, "Moral Reasons and
Reasons to be Moral," in Values and Morals, ed. Alvin I. Goldman and Jaegwon Kim
(Dordrecht: Reidel, 1978), pp. 231 -56; Thomas Nagel, The Possibilityof Altruism(Prince-
ton, NJ.: Princeton University Press, 1970); Brink, chap. 3; James Drier, "Internalism
and Speaker Relativism," Ethics 101 (1990): 6-26; and Stephen L. Darwall, "Autonomist
Internalism and the Justification of Morals," Now 24 (1990): 257-68, "Internalism and
Agency," PhilosophicalPerspectives6 (1992): 155-74, and "Motive and Obligation in the
British Moralists," Social Philosophy and Policy 7 (1989): 133-50. For discussions of
internalism about reasons, see Darwall, ImpartialReason; and Bernard Williams, "Inter-
nal and External Reasons," in Moral Luck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1981), pp. 101- 13.

Ethics 106 (January 1996): 297-326


o 1996 by The University of Chicago. All rightsreserved. 0014-1704/96/0602-9998$01.00
297
298 Ethics January 1996
X can have a certain normative status N only if someone A would be
motivated by it in sense M. Thus, depending upon the area of norma-
tive assessment, something can be a reason or an obligation or a value
of a certain kind only if that thing could appropriately motivate the
appropriate person or persons. Proponents of internalist accounts of
a person's good hold that something can be intrinsically, nonmorally
good for an individual person A only if-she herself would desire it (or
desire to desire it), at least under suitably ideal conditions.2
One need not accept internalism as a global thesis about normati-
vity to find it a compelling thesis about some normative categories.
Internalism about a person's good has seemed to many to have particu-
larly strong intuitive appeal. Expressing his own acceptance of inter-
nalism, Peter Railton remarks, "It does seem to me to capture an
important feature of the concept of intrinsic value to say that what is
intrinsically valuable for a person must have a connection with what
he would find in some degree compelling or attractive, as least if he
were rational and aware. It would be an intolerably alienated concep-
tion of someone's good to imagine that it might fail in any such way
to engage him."3
The principal intuition supporting internalism about a person's
good, as aptly expressed by Railton, is that an individual's good must
not be something alien-it must be "made for" or "suited to" her.4
But something can be made for or suited to an individual, the thought
goes, only if a concern for that thing lies within her motivational

2. The relevant motivation is typically taken to be a desire (first or second order)


or a preference for a given thing. Obviously, if internalism is to be a substantial thesis,
ideal conditions cannot include those in which a person has the information that X is
good for her. For recent proponents of accounts of a person's good that satisfy inter-
nalism see John Rawls, A TheoryoflJustice(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
1971), pp. 395-433; Richard B. Brandt, A Theoryof the Good and the Right (Oxford:
Clarendon, 1979); Peter Railton, "Moral Realism," Philosophical Review 95 (1986):
163-207, "Facts and Values," Philosophical Topics 14 (1986): 5-31, and "Naturalism
and Prescriptivity," Social Philosophyand Policy 7 (1990): 151-74; David Gauthier, Morals
byAgreement(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), chap. 2; John C. Harsanyi, "Mo-
rality and the Theory of Rational Behavior," in Utilitarianismand Beyond, ed. Amartya
Sen and Bernard Williams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), pp. 39-62;
and James Griffin, Well-Being: Its Meaning, Measurement,and Moral Importance(Oxford:
Clarendon, 1986), esp. pp. 31-32. Darwall endorses Rawls's account of a person's good
in ImpartialReason, pt. 2. For a more recent dispositional theory of value that endorses
internalism, see David Lewis, "Dispositional Theories of Value," Proceedingsof theAristo-
telian Society, suppl. vol. 63 (1989): 113-37.
3. Railton, "Facts and Values," p. 9.
4. David Velleman finds a different intuitive basis for internalism in the subjectivist
thought that value can exist only in virtue of beings for whom things can matter. See
J. David Velleman, "Is Motivation Internal to Value?" in Preferences,ed. Georg Meggle,
Christoph Fehige, and Ulla Wessels (in press). I prefer to treat this consideration as
suggesting what I will latter describe as a metaphysical argument for internalism.
Rosati Internalismand the Good 299
capacity: what is good for her must connect with what she would find
"in some degree compelling or attractive, at least if [she] were rational
and aware." In this way, there must be a "fit" between an individual
and her good.
Theorists about the good do not always explicitly endorse inter-
nalism. But it must lie behind a now standard strategy for defending
both subjectivist theories of the good and value pluralism, and so must
partly explain the popularity of these views.5 Hedonists like Sidgwick
commonly argue that so-called ideal goods, such as beauty and knowl-
edge, have no value apart from their relation to human happiness
and would not be regarded as desirable if they did not tend to promote
happiness.6 Desire theorists in turn commonly reject hedonism by
appealing to examples such as that of Nozick's experience machine,
which they take to show that we care about things besides pleasure.7
More generally, value pluralism arises from a rejection of monism:
we care about more than can be captured by any single value such as
pleasure or intellectual pursuits-indeed, we may not all be able to
care about the alleged single value-so a good consisting simply of
what satisfies a monistic standard would not be suited to us.8 One
could not reasonably think that appeals to what we care about would
so decisively either favor hedonism or rule out any monistic theory
unless one thought that our capacity to care about a thing is at least
a necessary condition on its being good for us.
Given the widespread tendency to defend accounts of nonmoral
value in a way that presupposes internalism, it is surprising how little
direct defense has been given for the thesis that a plausible account
of a person's good must satisfy internalism. Those defenses that have
been offered have rarely received adequate development. As a result,
those who accept this thesis have tended at best only implicitly to
recognize the kind of connection to motivation that the central intu-
ition behind internalism requires.

5. By 'subjectivist theories', I mean theories according to which a person's good


either consists in or crucially depends upon certain positive psychological states or
proattitudes, such as pleasure or (actual or counterfactual) desires. Here I roughly
follow Brink, pp. 220-21.
6. Henry Sidgwick, The Methodsof Ethics, 7th ed. (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1981), pp.
400-402, 113- 15.
7. Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (New York: Basic, 1974), p. 42. See,
e.g., Griffin, pp. 9-10. Curiously, even some who seem to reject internalism make
arguments that rely upon it. See Brink's use of Nozick's example to reject hedonism
(Brink, pp. 223-24).
8. For example, a long tradition of scholarship criticizes Aristotle's intellectualist
picture in book 10 of NichomacheanEthics as too narrow an account of the human good.
For a recent defense of Aristotle's conception(s) of happiness, see Gavin Lawrence,
"Aristotle and the Ideal Life," PhilosophicalReview 102 (1993): 1-34.
300 Ethics January 1996
My aims in this article are two. First, I intend to show that the
principal intuition behind internalism supports a stronger version of
the thesis than it might at first appear-one that effects a "double
link" to motivation. Second, I will identify and develop the main argu-
ments that have been or might be given in defense of internalism
about a person's good, showing how these arguments support this
stronger version of internalism. Together, these arguments present a
case for internalism about a person's good that is sufficiently strong,
I suggest, to require a serious response from anyone who would still
reject it.9
THE PROBLEM WITH SIMPLE INTERNALISM
In- its simplest form, internalism about a person's good tells us that
something cannot be good for a particular individual unless it can
motivate her. It thus offers only a necessary condition that must be met
by any putative good for a person. Not everything that can motivate a
person, of course, is a part of her good. The notion of a person's
good-of what would make her life go well-serves to distinguish
what a person may uncritically desire or find motivating from what
would be of genuine value to her. The task for those who would
develop an internalist theory of a person's good is to strengthen "sim-
ple internalism" by supplying whatever additional conditions serve to
delimit the extension of a person's good.
As a preliminary matter, however, simple internalism itself needs
refinement. In what sense must a person's good be something that
can motivate or engage her? The idea that a person's good must be
something than can motivate her would seem to suggest that some-
thing can be good for her only if she can be moved to seek it. This
would seem to require in turn that she antecedently want or desire it.

9. Critics of internalism about a person's good fall into two camps. Those in the
first camp reject internalism about goodness entirely. It includes externalists who, like
Moore, hold a nonnaturalistic account of good, proponents of what Derek Parfit calls
an "objective list theory," and certain perfectionists. See G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1903), esp. pp. 81-85; Panayot Butchvarov,
"That Simple, Indefinable, Nonnatural Property 'Good'," Review of Metaphysics36 (1982):
51-75; Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons (Oxford: Clarendon, 1984), pp. 499-500;
Thomas Hurka, "'Good' and 'Good For'," Mind 96 (1987): 71-73, and Perfectionism
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), see pp. 17, 27. The second camp includes
objectivists and perfectionists who may accept internalism about the good for humans
while rejecting internalism about an individual's good. Some perfectionists might hold,
for instance, that something can be good for human beings only if it can motivate or
matter to most (normal) humans, given their essential nature, while rejecting that
something can be good for an individual only if it can motivate or matter to her. On
the latter view, the person who cannot care about the human good is simply someone
who will miss out on her good. For a discussion of the various forms that perfectionism
can take, see Hurka, Perfectionism.
Rosati Internalismand the Good 301
A person's good will, of course, includes many things that she could
antecedently desire. But it will also include many things that she did
not or could not antecedently desire, as well as things that she can
acquire only by accident, or at least not by direct effort.10 A person
can fall in love, for instance, with someone that he met by chance, or
benefit from the kindness of strangers, or delight in a spontaneous
adventure. Our good is perhaps achieved as much through serendipity
as through rational endeavor. Yet as long as we can care about or like
or be glad of something once we acquire or experience it, this seems
enough to satisfy the intuition behind internalism. Internalism about
a person's good should thus not be characterized in relation to motiva-
tion narrowly construed. Rather, it should be characterized in relation
to motivation in the broad sense. In this sense, to motivate is to prompt
or elicit a proattitude-such as desiring, liking, being glad of, caring
about, and so on-an attitude which may or may not be a motive to
action. To say that something must motivate, in the broad sense, to
be part of a person's good, is to say that it must be something that
can, in a positive way, matter to her or be an object of her concern.11
For simplicity, I shall from here on simply speak in terms of caring
about a thing. This locution is not intended to designate the strong
sense of caring about a thing that contrasts with merely liking or
wanting it. Instead, 'caring about' should be understood to stand for
having one or another of those proattitudes that we commonly have
toward things plausibly regarded as a part of our good. Anything that
a person is capable of caring about in this sense is a possible object of
her concern. Let's understand simple internalism, then, as follows:
something X can be good for a person A only if A is capable of caring
about X. X, to be good for A, must be a possible object of her concern.12
Simple internalism represents perhaps the most minimal condi-
tion that must be met if something is to be a part of a person's good.
But simple internalism is clearly too weak: it counts as possible goods
for a person things that would violate the intuition that inspires inter-
nalism-the intuition that a person's good must suit her, that it cannot
be something alien to her.

10. Velleman makes this point in "Is Motivation Internal to Value?" See also
Griffin, p. 11.
11. I here follow an idea of Ve'lleman's. He construes internalism, however, as
requiring a relation to affect. I talk in terms of motivation broadly construed and
proattitudes, because the term 'affect' may have connotations of emotion or feeling that
are unnecessary to the relationship between a person and her good that internalism
seeks to capture. Moreover, 'affect' suggests a passive state and so may not capture the
range of relevant attitudes.
12. Velleman characterizes internalism along basically these lines. See his discus-
sion for a distinction between two senses of a person's good and two corresponding
versions of internalism,
302 Ethics January 1996
A creature's biological nature limits what it is capable of caring
about, and thus what is a possible object of its concern. But within the
limits imposed by its biology, a creature may be capable of caring
about a vast number of things. What it actually comes to care about
will depend upon the conditions under which it is placed. A horse's
biological nature, for instance, limits what it can care about. But with
various amounts of tinkering, it might come to care about things that
would never have mattered to it but for our tinkering. By the same
token, though a person A's physiology and psychology limit what she
is capable of caring about, what she comes to care about will also
depend upon the conditions under which she is placed. If A is subjected
to hypnosis, or brain surgery at the hands of a mad neurosurgeon, or
religious indoctrination, she may come to care about all sorts of things
that she would not have cared about otherwise. Yet what she would
care about under conditions like these may be just as alien to her as
those things that she cannot care about at all. They lie within her
motivational capacities but do not suit or fit her. Rather, we would
generally say, she has been made to fit them.
I say that such things may be as alien to her as what she cannot
care about at all, because, in an important sense, simple internalism
is right to treat a person's good as so elastic. A plausible account of a
person's good must surely allow that her good could include what she
would want only after undergoing various transformations. And not
just because once a person is transformed, the things she comes to
care about may suit her changed self, however unsuitable they were
to her in her unaltered condition. There are two reasons why an
account of a person's good must allow for this. First, it might well be
good for a person to alter herself or allow herself to be altered so that
her "latent" concerns for certain things are actualized. It might be
better for her to be the person she would be with those concerns than
the person she is now with her present concerns. A person might
indeed be able to endorse the changes that would lead her to acquire
these new concerns, and in this sense, even those things she would
want only after markedly changing can still suit her. But second, with-
out undergoing some changes, a person may be unable to care about
things that are a part of her good as the person she currently is, and
that she would recognize as such, if only she were in a position to
appreciate them.
The worry about simple internalism, then, is not that it counts as
possible goods for a person things that she would care about only
after undergoing marked alterations. The problem is that it counts as
possible goods for her anything that she could be brought to care
about no matter how arbitrary the alterations. To say that a person's
good must suit her is not to say that her good must fit her just as she
currently is. But it is to say that her good cannot consist either in what
Rosati Internalismand the Good 303
she is incapable of caring about or what she would come to care about
only by undergoing an alteration that places her under "alienated"
conditions. Her good must include only objects of possible concern
within the range of nonarbitrary, nonalienated alterations. The initial
difficulty for efforts to further strengthen internalism lies with ex-
plaining when alterations count as nonarbitrary.
Now one response to the problem for simple internalism would
be to reformulate internalism so as to make a tight connection between
a person's good and what she can care about as she is, without what
we would intuitively regard as a marked alteration of her present
condition. In this sense, she can now care about what she does care
about, but also what she would care about were she, say, simply given
a bit of information. Thus, we might reformulate simple internalism
as "strict internalism": something X can be good for a person A only
if she can care about X without any marked alteration of her present
condition. But strict internalism makes the connection to the actual
person far tighter than is supported by the intuition that drives inter-
nalism. That intuition is not that a person's good cannot be something
alien to her no matter what her present condition; rather it is that her
good must suit her by connecting with what she would find compelling,
at least if she were rational and aware. As already noted, a person
may be unable in her present condition to care about something that
she would care about under other conditions and that we are perfectly
prepared to regard as a part of her good. Her unaltered condition,
after all, might itself be one in which she is seriously impaired. Even
where she is not seriously impaired, in her present state, she may be
incapable of appreciating important information or unable to reason
carefully, and so may be unable to care about X. We often regard what
a person would care about while in an altered state as a part of her
good because the very character of that state confers authority on a
person's responses while she is in it.
If internalism is to remain faithful to the intuition that inspires
it, it must be formulated so as to avoid two extremes. On the one
hand, it must not hold that something can be good for a person only
if the actual, unaltered person can care about it, for this ties a person's
good too closely to her present condition, however defective. On the
other hand, although it must allow that, in some sense, anything she
is capable of caring about might be good for her, it must not include as
possible goods for her what she would care about only under alienated
conditions. Internalism must treat a person's capacity to care counter-
factually, while constraining counterfactual conditions so that they
permit as possible goods for a person only what can recognizably fit
or suit her.
We might begin to characterize a stronger internalist constraint
as follows: something X can be good for a person A only if A would
304 Ethics January 1996
care about X for her actual self, were A under appropriate conditions
and contemplating the situation of her actual self as someone about
to assume her position.13 This formulation captures the thought that
what a person would care about while under a given set of conditions
can serve to delimit her good only if those conditions are themselves
appropriate. Moreover, it recognizes that what may be good for a
person as she would be under ideal conditions may not be good for
her as her actual self. 14 Furthermore, by requiring A under appropriate
conditions to contemplate the position of her actual self as someone
about to assume that position, it insures that counterfactual A will
come to care about things for actual A. She will prefer, for instance,
that actual A undertake certain pursuits over others. The constraint
is thus formulated so that the person A is under appropriate conditions
serves to fix the good of the person she is under actual conditions.
Notice that this formulation of the internalist constraint, by requi-
ring only that A would care about X for her actual self, allows for the
variety of relationships in which an actual person might stand to her
good. In cases of "indirection," for instance, something might be good
for a person, but she will not be able to achieve it if she wants to have
it or if she pursues it directly. Suppose that doing well on an important
exam, for instance, will greatly affect a person's future happiness, but
whenever she cares about doing well, she does worse than when she
does not care about doing well. In such a case, doing well may be
good for her and, just for that reason, caring about doing well is not.
The formulation allows for such cases. A may care about X for her
actual self, without wanting her actual self to have a desire for X;
indeed, she may want her actual self not to want X in order that she
may have or achieve X. Of course, A may sometimes want her actual
self to want X. A person's good may in such cases even include chang-
ing the person she is under actual conditions, so that she would come
to want what she would counterfactually want her self to want. In
other cases, though, A may only care that her actual self have or
receive X and that she act to achieve it where X can be gained by
direct effort.
Ultimately, a plausible internalist account of a person's good will
likely follow this last formulation, but a crucial question must first be
answered. How are we to constrain what shall count as "appropriate"
conditions? To satisfy the intuition supporting internalism and avoid
the problem for simple internalism, we must insure that these condi-

13. I talk in terms of what a person would want under appropriate conditions,
rather than what she could want, since the canonical way of testing whether a person
could want X under C is to put her in C and see if she would want it.
14. On the need for this distinction, see Railton, "Moral Realism," p. 174, n. 15;
and Griffin, pp. 11-12.
Rosati Internalismand the Good 305
tions do not themselves strike us as alien. Yet how conditions may now
sit with a person need not settle their appropriateness any more than
whether she can now care about something settles whether it is good
for her. We need a way to rule out alienated conditions, without
allowing the appropriateness of conditions to depend upon how they
now strike a person, whatever her present state might be.
We can do so by requiring that a person regard counterfactual
conditions as appropriate not in her present state, but under ordinary
optimal conditions. These would include that a person not be sleeping,
drugged, or hypnotized, that she be thinking calmly and rationally,
and that she not be overlooking any readily available information.
This list of conditions is not intended to be exhaustive. By 'ordinary
optimal conditions' I mean whatever normally attainable conditions
are optimal for reflecting on questions about what to care about self-
interestedly. Thus, we might say, counterfactual conditions are appro-
priate only if a person would so regard them under ordinary opti-
mal conditions.15
We need not worry that appealing to one set of conditions as a
test of the acceptability of other sets of conditions will generate a
regress. Doing so does not force us to appeal to yet other conditions
under which we would regard ordinary optimal conditions as appropri-
ate in order to validate the latter conditions in turn. Ordinary optimal
conditions are simply those that we already accept as the minimal
conditions that must be met for a person to think sensibly about her
good at all. They are presupposed by and indeed central to discourse
about a person's good. This is readily shown by the advice we tend to
give to someone who is trying to decide what to pursue for herself, as
well as by the kinds of criticisms we make of our own and of others'
self-regarding decisions. We criticize people's choices, for instance,
when they are made irrationally or in disregard of obvious facts or in
the heat of the moment.
Ordinary optimal conditions are insufficiently ideal to be the test
of what is good for a person. Determining what it makes sense for
someone to care about may require far more information, for instance,
than is readily available. But at least three considerations suggest that
they are appropriate to test the adequacy of more removed counterfac-
tual conditions. First, the test of ordinary optimal conditions accords
with the intuition that inspires internalism: the test insures that a

15. I am indebted here to David Velleman, who originally suggested to me the


need to incorporate something like ordinary optimal conditions. The qualification 'self-
interestedly' does not preclude from a person's good concern for others or for larger
projects, but merely distinguishes between a person's moral concerns and her concerns
from a personal standpoint. By 'rationally' I mean simply that she makes no errors
in reasoning.
306 Ethics January 1996
person's good is not something alien, since it connects her good to
what she would care about, at least if she were rational and aware.
Second, the test of ordinary optimal conditions helps to insure
that internalist theories capture our concept of a person's good. If an
internalist account of a person's good is to be conceptually adequate,
counterfactual conditions must bear on those concerns that actually
animate inquiry into our good. These concerns are not ones that any
particular person may happen to have, however neurotic or irrational.
Rather, they are the concerns that persons generally would have under
ordinarily accessible improved conditions-those conditions that are
themselves presupposed by and central to our discourse about a per-
son's good.
Finally, the nature of the inquiry into counterfactual conditions
limits how ideal test conditions need to be. For instance, the informa-
tion needed to test the appropriateness of counterfactual conditions
is nowhere near as extensive or hard to obtain as the information
required to determine what it makes sense to care about. To determine
the latter might require, for instance, currently undiscoverable infor-
mation about the effects of a medication. In contrast, assessing coun-
terfactual conditions requires more limited information, such as infor-
mation about the coherence of those conditions or about how well
those conditions address concerns persons have when inquiring about
their good. Information of this sort is obtained by careful reflection
or by consulting others rather than by complex empirical inquiry.
Ordinary optimal conditions are adequate to the kind of inquiry
involved. 6
The requirement that a person under ordinary optimal conditions
regard removed counterfactual conditions as appropriate seems too
strong, however, since it apparently requires that she be able to make
certain theoretical judgments. It is the job of the theorist, not of the
person who is contemplating her good, to make such judgments and
to design the proper counterfactual conditions. Still, while we may
have no particular antecedent views about what conditions are appro-
priate, we clearly do care about our counterfactual concerns under
some conditions and not under others. All else being equal, we do care
about whether we would enjoy something if we were able to experience
it, and we do not care about whether we would enjoy it if we were

16. As noted earlier, my specification of ordinary optimal conditions is not intended


to be complete. Those conditions could, for instance, include attention to more informa-
tion than is readilyavailable. Even so, for reasons already given, the information required
to assess counterfactual conditions is limited. The nature of the inquiry suggests as well
that the conditions under which a person assesses remote counterfactual conditions
need not be otherwise extraordinary. A person need not, for example, have phenomenal
powers of reason, memory, or imagination.
Rosati Internalismand the Good 307
brainwashed to do so. In keeping with the internalist effort to link
motivation and value, we might say this: counterfactual conditions C
are appropriate only if the fact that a person would come to care
about something X for her actual self when under C is itself something
that she would care about when under ordinary optimal conditions.
A person need not care about X itself while under ordinary optimal
conditions in order for X to be good for her. But if her good is not
to be alienated, the fact that she would care about X for her actual
self under a particular set of counterfactual conditions had better be
something that would prompt her concern under ordinary optimal
conditions.
The appeal to ordinary optimal conditions may seem a weaker
constraint on counterfactual conditions than it is. Suppose that I worry
about my tendency to anger easily and offend others when under
stress, and I know that were I under stressful conditions S, I would
want my actual self to make a particularly offensive remark. One might
argue that, because I am concerned about my character traits, I will,
under ordinary optimal conditions, care about the fact that I would
want myself to want certain things under S. Thus, one might conclude
that counterfactual conditions S pass the test. But they do not. Recall
that to 'care about' something, in the sense intended here, is to have
a proattitude toward it, and so the appeal to what a person would care
about under ordinary optimal conditions must be understood in this
light. The fact that I would want certain things for myself under S
would not, under ordinary optimal conditions, elicit (for instance) a
desire on my part to conform to my verdicts under S. Thus, conditions
that prompt a person's concern in the "wrong sense," as in the forego-
ing example, are excluded, and without presupposing any particular
normative judgments. For reasons offered earlier, my construal of
caring about something is the relevant one if we are plausibly to
characterize internalism about a person's good.
The stronger form of internalism that we finally arrive at tells us
that something X can be good for a person A only if two conditions
are met:
1. Were A under conditions C and contemplating the circum-
stances of her actual self as someone about to assume her actual
self's position, A would care about X for her actual self;
2. conditions C are'such that the facts about what A would
care about for her actual self while under C are something A
would care about when under ordinary optimal conditions.

Call this version of internalism "two-tier internalism."


My suggestion is this: if an account of a person's good is to satisfy
the intuition that drives internalism, it must effect a double link to
motivation. The first link provides for a motivational connection be-
308 Ethics January 1996
tween an individual and her good under counterfactual conditions,
and thus at a further remove from her actual self. This link captures
the thought that while a person's good might include things that she
cannot in her present state care about, it must include only what she
is capable of caring about. It avoids the alienation of treating as good
for a person things that cannot matter to her, while not connecting a
person's good too closely to her actual concerns. The second link
effects a motivational connection between an individual and informa-
tion about her counterfactual attitudes. It provides for a closer connec-
tion to the actual individual, requiring that appropriate conditions
connect with what a person would care about when contemplating
her good under ordinary optimal conditions. This requirement further
captures the intuition that a person's good must connect with what
she would find compelling, at least if she were rational and aware.
The second link thus prevents the alienation of treating as possible
goods for a person things she would come to care about only under
alienated conditions, conditions irrelevant to her inquiry about her
good. And it achieves this without implausibly requiring that a person's
counterfactual concerns, or even information about her counterfac-
tual concerns, now motivate her no matter what her current condition
might be.
It is important to see that two-tier internalism most directly tests
theories rather than alleged goods. For instance, because of what we
are like and what our ordinary concerns tend to be, it excludes count-
erfactual conditions such as being brainwashed or under hypnosis,
thereby excluding as possible goods for a person what she would care
about for her actual self under these conditions but under no other
conditions that would pass the test. Whether a particular thing might
be good for a person will depend upon whether any of the sets of
conditions under which she would want it for her actual self would
also prompt her concern under ordinary optimal conditions.
Although proponents of internalist theories have never explicitly
formulated the constraint given by two-tier internalism, some appear
at least implicitly to recognize it. The defenses they provide of their
views may thus serve to illustrate two-tier internalism. Railton, for
instance, argues that a person's good consists in what she would want
her self to want or to pursue, were she to contemplate the situation
of her actual self as someone about to assume her actual self's position,
from a standpoint in which she was fully informed and rational. He
defends this account in part by arguing that it "satisfies an appropriate
internalist constraint": "the views we would have were we to become
free of present defects in knowledge or rationality would induce an
internal resonance in us as we now are.""7The counterfactual condi-

17. "Facts and Values," pp. 17, 13-14; "Moral Realism," pp. 177-78.
Rosati Internalismand the Good 309
tions in Railton's account speak to certain concerns we ordinarily
have in contemplating whether something is good for us-Do I
know enough about the thing I desire? Am I being sufficiently ratio-
nal?-and so they apparently pass muster under ordinary optimal
conditions.
Notice that two-tier internalism still provides only a necessary
condition on something being good for a person, since it says nothing
about what the correct counterfactual conditions might be. I will not
explore here whether an account like Railton's is adequate.'8 For all
we know, there may be no single set of conditions that would meet
the test of ordinary optimal conditions. In any case, the task faced by
those who wish to develop an internalist account of a person's good
would be to supply whatever other conditions must be met by such
an account.
FIVE ARGUMENTS FOR INTERNALISM
I have argued that the intuition that lies behind internalism about a
person's good supports a stronger version of internalism than it might
at first appear. But those who reject internalism will doubtless be
unimpressed. Externalists hold that a person can be quite radically
mistaken about her good: she can never correctly conclude merely
from her incapacity to care about something that it is not a part of
her good. A form of internalism that accepts only the first motivational
link, externalists might argue, at least comes closer to acknowledging
how markedly a person's good may diverge from what she currently
favors. To constrain counterfactual conditions by means of a link to
the individual under ordinary optimal conditions reinvites the charge
that internalist accounts of a person's good cannot provide the requi-
site critical stance on a person's desires and aims. If the intuitive sup-
port for internalism leads to two-tier internalism, then so much the
worse for internalism.
But internalism cannot be dismissed so easily. Although those
who accept internalism about a person's good rarely defend it directly,
at least five distinct arguments can be given in support of it.19 I will

18. I have elsewhere raised difficulties for full information, dispositional theories
of a person's good such as Railton's..See my "Naturalism, Normativity, and the Open
Question Argument," Nous 29 (1995): 46-70, and "Persons, Perspectives, and Full
Information Accounts of the Good," Ethics 105 (1995): 296-325. Also see J. David
Velleman, "Brandt's Definition of 'Good'," PhilosophicalReview 97 (1988): 353-71. A
theory of the good for a person need not be dispositional to satisfy internalism.
19. As far as I can tell, only the fourth argument has been explicitly offered as a
defense of internalism about a person's good. The other arguments I here consider are
suggested either by the approaches that theorists have taken to defending particular
accounts of a person's good or by arguments given in support of internalism with
respect to other areas of normative assessment.
310 Ethics January 1996
develop these arguments here, showing how each supports not only
simple internalism, but two-tier internalism. Some of the arguments
rely upon others. And as we shall see, the arguments sometimes rely
upon other forms of internalism. Thus, the plausibility of internalism
about a person's good may partly depend on whether these other
forms of internalism are plausible. Taken individually, the arguments
presented here are certainly inconclusive, and I shall identify the
weaker arguments as I proceed. My aim, however, is to show that
they jointly provide a powerful case for two-tier internalism about a
person's good.
Judgment Internalism
A first consideration sometimes offered in support of internalism
about a person's good appeals to the action-guiding character of nor-
mative language. The legacy of noncognitivism was to reveal the con-
nection between the use of normative language and the guidance of
action.20 Noncognitivists hold that this connection is conceptual rather
than contingent and empirical. They thus accept a view called 'judg-
ment internalism." According to judgment internalism, it is a neces-
sary condition on sincere judgment about a person's good that the
speaker normally have some inclination, not necessarily overriding,
to promote or to care about that thing.2' A person cannot sincerely
judge that something is good for herself unless she has some tendency
to approve of or pursue that thing. And a person cannot sincerely
judge something good for someone else without being inclined to
endorse it and recommend it to that person. Normative language has
inherent expressive and recommending force.
The truth of judgment internalism might seem to support the
claim that a plausible account of the good for a person must satisfy
existence internalism, at least in the form of simple internalism.22 An

20. For discussion, see Stephen Darwall, Allan Gibbard, and Peter Railton,
"Toward Fin de Siecle Ethics: Some Trends," PhilosophicalReview 101 (1992); 115-89,
pp. 116-20.
21. As Drier observes, judgment internalism can be stated in an implausibly strong
form (pp. 9-14). He endorses "modest internalism," according to which necessarily "in
normal contexts a person has some motivation to promote what he believes to be good"
(p. 14). Whereas externalism holds that moral judgments typically motivate due to
external factors, modest internalism holds that an internal connection exists between
sincerely asserting a moral judgment and being motivated to act, though the necessary
connection holds only for normal contexts (p. 11). I here add this qualification to my
depiction of judgment internalism.
22. Railton's discussion suggests an argument of this kind in "Naturalism and
Prescriptivity," p. 173. See also "Facts and Values," p. 16. Arguments from judgment
to existence internalism also surface with regard to other areas of normative assessment,
although those who make them do not always clearly distinguish between these forms
of internalism. Darwall seems to presuppose such an argument in constructing the
Rosati Internalismand the Good 311
account of the good for a person must permit judgments about a
person's good to serve their characteristic action-guiding functions. It
must be able to explain how it is that, at least normally, judgments
about a person's good motivate, and it must also preserve their charac-
teristic recommending and expressive functions or normative force.
An account can succeed in this, without embracing noncognitivism
and its antirealist implications, only if it satisfies simple internalism.
By limiting a person's good to some subset of those things that can
matter to her, an account insures that it will at least be possible
for judgments about a person's good to perform their characteristic
functions.
Notice, however, that an account of a person's good that satisfies
only simple internalism may still be unable to explain or preserve
these functions. All simple internalism tells us is that a person's good
must be capable of eliciting her concern under some set of conditions
or other. Imagine an account according to which something X is good
for a person if and only if she would want it after undergoing hypnosis.
The account constrains a person's good within the range of possible
objects of her concern. But clearly it would fail to explain or preserve
the recommending and expressive functions of discourse about a per-
son's good. Of course, those who support internalism claim only that
it is a necessary condition on a plausible account of a person's good,
not that it is a sufficient condition. Similarly, they must claim only that
satisfying simple internalism is necessary to explaining and preserving
the connection between judgments about a person's good and the
guidance of action. But so is satisfying two-tier internalism.
An account of the good for a person can succeed in explaining
and preserving the inherent normative force of judgments about a
person's good only if it suitably constrains the possible objects of a
person's concern relevant to a determination of her good. To do so,
it must link a person's good to what she would care about, but not
under just any conditions whatsoever. Rather, the conditions must be
such that information about a person's wants or reactions under them
would matter to the actual person, at least if she were under ordinary
optimal conditions. Judgments about our good, after all, serve to guide
attitudes and action, and they perform their characteristic expressive
and recommending functions in everyday life and as addressed to or
uttered by actual persons. Unless an account constrains in this way
the counterfactual concerns relevant to determining a person's good,
the judgment that something is good for a person will not normally

second half of the Humean case for internalism about reasons (ImpartialReason, pp.
56-57). Nagel seems to suggest that existence internalism about morality can be sup-
ported by appeal to judgment internalism (p. 7). And Drier argues from judgment
internalism to a form of speaker relativism about morality (p. 7).
312 Ethics January 1996
serve to recommend it or to express a proattitude. Indeed, a stronger
claim may be warranted. When an account does so constrain coun-
terfactual conditions, the judgment that something is good for a per-
son A will normally count as a recommendation of that thing to A
and give rise to the corresponding attitudes and action tendencies; and
when sincerely uttered by A herself, such judgments will normally
express a proattitude and be accompanied by any corresponding ac-
tion tendencies.23
The "argument from judgment internalism," as I will call it, is an
instance of two more general lines of argument. The first and most
general seeks to insure that a theory of the good for a person captures
the central features of our discourse about a person's good. A theory
must neither change the subject altogether, in the extreme case, nor
unacceptably revise our concept so that it fails to capture what is of
interest to us in our talk about what is good for someone. One might
think that theorists can best capture certain central aspects of talk
about a person's good, such as its action-guiding character, by devel-
oping accounts that satisfy internalism.
The argument from judgment internalism is also an instance of
a more general argument that appeals to the expressive and recom-
mending functions of talk about a person's good. One need not accept
judgment internalism in order to argue from the action-guiding func-
tion ofjudgments about a person's good to existence internalism. One
need only be impressed that there is, if not a conceptual connection,
then a very strong and deep, albeit contingent, connection between
judgments of goodness and the guidance of action. Any theory of a
person's good must be able to explain why this strong and deep connec-
tion, whether necessary or contingent, regularly holds. Of course, once
we allow that judgments about a person's good guide action only
contingently, we also allow that a person's good may only contingently
motivate her. Thus, the most secure argument from the action-guiding
character of normative language to existence internalism depends
upon the truth of judgment internalism. Nevertheless, because exist-
ence internalism posits a necessary connection between goodness for
a person and what can matter to a person, accounts that satisfy it

23. I am indebted here to D. Gene Witmer's argument for an internalist connection


akin to what I have called "two-tier internalism" in his "Normative Realism: An Eclectic
Dispositional Analysis" (unpublished paper, Rutgers University). I had originally
thought that the second link to motivation provides a necessary condition on counterfac-
tual conditions because it is needed to capture recommending force. But Witmer's
arguments convinced me that the need is more generally due to the action-guiding
character of normative language. The argument I present here for the double link
thus follows his argument in this regard. I am still inclined for various reasons, however,
to emphasize recommending force and the guidance of attitude over that of action.
Rosati Internalismand the Good 313
can readily explain and preserve the (contingent) recommending and
expressive functions of our judgments.24 Even ifjudgment internalism
is false, then, two-tier internalism may still provide the best account
of the normative force of judgments about a person's good.
An account of a person's good that satisfies two-tier internalism
will not only be positioned to explain and preserve the normative force
of judgments about a person's good. It will also be in a position to
explain why the necessary connection thatjudgment internalism posits
between sincere judgment and proattitudes only holds "normally";
alternatively, it can explain why the contingent connection between
judgments about a person's good and the guidance of action is only
so strong. If a person is not under ordinary optimal conditions-she
is not thinking clearly, for instance, or is suffering from weakness
of will-a judgment about her good may fail to have its ordinary
recommending force. Such judgments will normally recommend
(whether necessarily or contingently) because, since ordinary optimal
conditions are just those normally attainable conditions that are opti-
mal for reflecting on what to care about, people will normally be able
to approximate to those conditions when consideringjudgments about
their good.
The Metaphysicsof Value
A second argument for internalism about a person's good begins with
an argument for subjectivism, according to which value exists only in
virtue of subjectivity. R. B. Perry expresses this idea in General Theory
of Value: "A certain positive plausibility is given to this hypothesis by
the fact that in order to create values where they did not exist before
it seems to be sufficient to introduce an interest. The silence of the
desert is without value, until some wanderer finds it lonely and terrify-
ing; the cataract, until some human sensibility finds it sublime, or until
it is harnessed to satisfy human needs."25 Introduce into the world
creatures who are affected by and react to their world, Perry tells us,
and you introduce value as well. Indeed, he suggests, introducing such
creatures is sufficient for the introduction of value.
It is a natural step from this thought to the thought that value
itself must be a complex motivational property.26 If value can exist

24. Railton's discussion in "Naturalism and Prescriptivity" suggests both lines of


argument.
25. R. B. Perry, General Theory of Value (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University
Press, 1954), p. 125. For a strikingly similar, though more careful, passage which offers
this same basic argument for subjectivism, see Railton, "Facts and Values," p. 9.
26. The argument presented here follows an argument that Darwall has offered
(and apparently endorsed) in explaining Hume's internalism about reasons (Impartial
Reason, pp. 55-57). In "Internalism and Agency," however, Darwall distinguishes be-
tween "constitutive internalism" and "non-constitutive internalism." While both are
314 Ethics January 1996
only if there are creatures who can be affected by and react to their
world, then value, and more specifically, goodness for a person, must
be a motivational property.27 What else, after all, could it be? The only
alternative might seem to be that the property of being good for a
person is a Moorean, nonnatural property, but this alternative intro-
duces special metaphysical and epistemological problems.28 We thus
arrive at the suggestion that not only nrust a person's good be some-
thing that she can care about, but that the very goodness of her good
is constitutedby her being disposed to care about it, at least under ideal
conditions. Considerations about the metaphysics of value show that a
plausible account of a person's good must satisfy existence internalism.
This "metaphysical argument" for internalism, by its very nature,
must be inconclusive. Its force depends on ruling out not only all (as
yet unknown) externalist accounts of what the property of being good
for a person might be, but internalist alternatives that reject treating
it as a motivational property. For instance, an internalist view along
the lines of the "sensibility theories" proposed by John McDowell and
David Wiggins might hold that goodness for a person is a sui generis
secondary property, akin to color properties, that can only be grasped
by those with the proper ethical sensibilities.29 While such a property
and the corresponding sensibility are mutually dependent, in the way
that color and color sense are or that humorousness and a sense of
humor are, the property is not constituted by our dispositions to care
about things.
While the metaphysical argument is thus inconclusive, we can
imagine how it might be strengthened. One way is by reconstructing

forms of existence internalism, only constitutive internalism holds that "motivation is


a constituent of ethical facts themselves" (p. 157). And so only constitutive internalism,
Darwall argues, can explain how ethical knowledge necessarily motivates: such knowl-
edge is itself of motives "deriving from the agent's practical reasoning" (p. 158). Also
see Darwall, Gibbard, and Railton, pp. 176-77.
27. Some who reject internalism may agree that at least some value can exist only
if there are creatures for whom things can matter, while denying that goodness must
be a motivational property. On Moore's view, the organic unities that have the greatest
intrinsic value require the existence of creatures who are capable of aesthetic apprecia-
tion and friendship. But even these wholes are made good by the presence of a nonnatu-
ral property.
28. J. L. Mackie offers the classic criticisms of this picture of value in Ethics: In-
venting Right and Wrong (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin, 1978), chap. 1.
29. Sensibility theories have been developed chiefly with respect to moral value.
See John McDowell, "Are Moral Requirements Hypothetical Imperatives?" Proceedings
of the AristotelianSociety,suppl. vol. 52 (1978): 13-29, "Values and Secondary Qualities,"
in Moralityand Objectivity,ed. Ted Honderich (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985),
and "Truth and Projection in Ethics," Lindley Lecture (University of Kansas, 1987).
Also see David Wiggins, "A Sensible Subjectivism," "Truth as Predicated of Moral
Judgments," and "Truth, Invention, and the Meaning of Life," in Needs, Values, Truth:
Essays in the Philosophy of Value (Oxford: Blackwell, 1987), pp. 185-214, 139-84,
87-138.
Rosati Internalismand the Good 315
it as follows. If goodness for a person is not a complex motivational
property, then either it is a peculiar nonnatural property, or it is
some other kind of property which itself presupposes the truth of
internalism. The conclusion would then be not "either a strange non-
natural property or a motivational property," but "either a strange
nonnatural property or internalism." A second way of strengthening
the argument is more in keeping with the original version. One might
argue that the known alternative views about what the property of
being good for a person could be, whether externalist or internalist,
are problematic.30 Thus, the only plausible view supports internalism.
If the leading alternatives can be shown to be problematic, then even
if the argument does not handle all comers, it may establish a sufficient
presumption in favor of internalism about a person's good.
The metaphysical argument supports simple internalism directly.
If goodness for a person can only be a complex motivational property,
then something can be good for a person only if her dispositions are
such that she can care about it. Unless she is capable of caring about
it and thus is disposed to care about it-at least under some set of
conditions-any particular item cannot possess the property in
question.
But the argument also supports two-tier internalism, albeit more
indirectly. That is because this argument for internalism cannot be
entirely independent of the first. Part of what typically bothers people
about the Moorean picture of intrinsic value is that it leaves the connec-
tions between goodness, attitude, and action utterly mysterious. In
order for a property to fill the place of goodness for a person, it must
be able to perform the functions of this property, and to do this it must
not only function to guide attitude and action but make intelligible how
judgments about its presence would carry normative force. For reasons
already given, an account of a person's good can arguably succeed in
this only if it secures a double motivational link.
The point can also be put in this way. We are disposed to care
about a great many things, depending on what conditions we occupy.
But the only dispositions to care that can be candidates for the property
of goodness for a person are those that can also fill the functional role
of this property. Only dispositions that conform to two-tier internalism
can fill this role.

Justification
A third argument for internalism about a person's good might focus
not on the metaphysics, but on the epistemology of value. We can

30. For critical discussion of sensibility theories, see Darwall, Gibbard, and Railton,
pp. 152-65; and Allan Gibbard, Wise Choices,Apt Feelings:A Theoryof NormativeJudgment
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990), p. 186.
316 Ethics January 1996
justify to a person the claim that something is good for her, one might
think, only if her alleged good satisfies internalism. The guiding idea
behind the "epistemological argument" for internalism is that nothing
can be shown to be a good for us unless we are capable of regarding
it as such, and we are capable of regarding it as such only if we are
capable of caring about it. The epistemological argument might be
developed in two distinct ways.
One version is suggested by Mill's proof of the principle of utility
in chapter 4 of Utilitarianism. Mill tells us that "ultimate ends do not
admit of proof, in the ordinary acceptation of the term. "31 He goes
on to invoke his much-criticized analogy between 'desirable' on the
one hand and 'visible' and 'audible' on the other: "The only proof
capable of being given that an object is visible is that people actually
see it. The only proof that a sound is audible is that people hear it;
and so of the other sources of our experience. In like manner, I
apprehend, the sole evidence it is possible to produce that anything
is desirable is that people do actually desire it. If the end which the
utilitarian doctrine proposes to itself were not, in theory and in prac-
tice, acknowledged to be an end, nothing could ever convince any
person that it was so."32
We would certainly dispute Mill's contention that the sole evidence
that can be given in support of the claim that something is desirable
is that people actually do desire it. In part, we would dispute it because
we doubt that in order to justify to a person a claim of desirability that
person must actually desire the thing in question. Nevertheless, Mill's
basic point may seem correct and can be formulated in more compel-
ling terms. Unless a person could care about the thing in question it
cannot be justified as a part of her good, because the possibility of
her caring about the thing is necessary evidence of its being good for
her. But why think that it is necessary evidence? Consider the following
thought experiment. Suppose that a person A could not be brought
to care about a thing X under any conditions and so concluded that it
is not good for her. What counterevidence could be produced to sub-
vert Xs conclusion? We have no picture, the argument might go, of
what such evidence could be.33
The argument leaves open what could count as evidence of the
goodness of X for A. Claims about evidence would have to be evaluated
as they arose. As a consequence, the argument does not refute exter-
nalism about a person's good, but it does shift the burden to those
who endorse externalism. They must now explain what kind of evi-

31. John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism(Indianapolis: Hackett, 1979), p. 34.


32. Mill, p. 34.
33. Griffin sometimes talks as if he might endorse such an argument, though he
does not formulate it explicitly (pp. 26-31).
Rosati Internalismand the Good 317
dence might be produced to support the claim that something a person
is incapable of caring about is nevertheless good for her. Certain
candidates for evidence are nonstarters. For instance, intuitions about
the presence of a nonnatural property surely cannot subvert A's con-
clusion. Neither can appeals to the experience of others. We do ordi-
narily treat the responses and assessments of others as evidence of
what might be good for us. We do so, however, on the assumption
that we are relevantly like them. The fact that everyone else who has
experienced X has come to love it would not undermine A's conclusion,
since there is obviously a relevant difference between other people
and A: others were capable of caring about X and A is not. The fact
that all those who experience X have come to love it may be evidence
that X has qualities which tend to make it a good for persons. It might
even be relevant to the claim that it would have been better for A had
A been capable of caring about X, since she would then have been
able to love X as others do. But it will not show that X is good for A.34
One suggestion, then, is that the possibility of a person caring
about a thing is necessary evidence of its goodness for her because in
the absence of this evidence, nothing could show it to be good for her.
If indeed the possibility of a person caring about X is necessary evi-
dence that it is good for her, internalists are not only in a position to
produce this evidence when X satisfies their accounts. They are also
in a position to explain why, without it, no proof can be given that
something is good for a person: that which is necessary as evidence
of value is also necessary to the existence of value.
Richard Brandt's defense of his reforming definition of 'good'
suggests a second version of the epistemological argument. According
to Brandt, we should use the term 'good' to mean "rationally desired,"
and 'rationally desired' to mean "would be desired after maximal expo-
sure to facts and logic."35To show a person that she would rationally
desire something, Brandt seems to think, is to provide her with all the
justification it is possible to give that it is good for her.36 Persons care,
Brandt argues, about having rational desires, because irrational desires
tend to result in unhappiness, and because knowing that one's desires
are irrational tends to create an uncomfortable phenomenon akin to

34. One might try to support appeals to the experience of others by connecting
them to an account of human nature together with an account of how our nature gives
us a particular good. But surely even such an approach must take account of variations
in individual natures.
35. Brandt defines the notion 'good' rather than the notion 'good for a person',
but since different persons may rationally desire different things, his definition is better
understood as one of goodness for a person.
36. Brandt does not say this explicitly, but see his defense of his reforming defini-
tion of 'morally right' (pp. 244-45).
318 Ethics January 1996
cognitive dissonance. To show a person that something is good for
her in his sense is to justify it to her because such a showing naturally
provides her with a reason to care about that thing.37
Much of the work of justification, of course, is accomplished by
the ideal conditions that Brandt specifies. But Brandt's strategy sug-
gests that in order to justify to a person the claim that something is
good for her one must be able to show how that thing connects with
her own actual or possible concerns. We must show her that she has
reason to care about it, and we can show her that she has reason to
care about it only by appropriately connecting it with something that
she already does or can care about. That is because (on this view)
justifying reasons are desire or at least proattitude based. This version
of the epistemological argument makes use of internalism about an-
other area of normative assessment-namely, something's being a
reason-to support internalism about a person's good.38 The force
of the argument depends on the assumption that internalism about
justifying reasons is less controversial than internalism about a person's
good. Given the widespread acceptance of instrumental or desire-
based accounts of reasons, this assumption is not unreasonable,
though again the resulting argument is inconclusive.
On either version of the epistemological argument, the claim that
something X is good for a person can be justified only if the account
in terms of which that claim is framed satisfies simple internalism. If
necessary evidence for the truth of the claim that X is good for a
person is that she could care about it, then X must indeed be a possible
object of her concern. If we can only justify the claim that X is good
for a person by showing her that she has a reason to care about it,
and we can only show her that she has a reason to care about it if it
is possible for her to care about it, then justifying the claim depends
on the fact that X is a possible object of her concern. Either way, an
account of a person's good will be able to justify claims about what is
good for a person only if it satisfies simple internalism.
The role of simple internalism injustifying claims about a person's
good will, of course, be quite minimal. The fact that something X is
not a possible object of concern for a person may be conclusive evi-
dence that it is not a part of her good. But the fact that X is a possible
object of her concern is not quite evidence that it is her good, not
even prima facie evidence. At most, it is evidence that X has not yet
been ruled out as a part of her good, and it is necessary evidence only
in this sense. Similarly, the fact that something is a possible object of

37. Ibid., pp. 154-60. Railton makes similar arguments. See n. 17.
38. Falk's defense of internalism about the moral 'ought' similarly relies on inter-
nalism about practical reasons. See his "'Ought' and Motivation"; and Darwall, "Inter-
nalism and Agency," pp. 155-56.
Rosati Internalismand the Good 319
concern for a person does not provide her with a reason to care about
it. Suppose person A can care about X but would care about it only
if she underwent massive brain surgery. Clearly, the mere fact that X
is a possible object of her concern does not give A any reason to care
about X, if we accept the proattitude based view of reasons. Of course,
post-brain-surgery A may have a prima facie reason to care about X,
since she does care about X, but that does not show that actual A has
a reason to care about it. To be sure, it will not be possible on this
view to give someone a reason to care about something unless she is
capable of caring about it. But the fact that she is capable of caring
about it does not yet give her that reason.
The epistemological argument does support simple internalism
as a necessary condition to be met by any plausible theory of a person's
good, but it also supports two-tier internalism. Consider again the
evidence version of the epistemological argument and the thought
experiment employed to show that the possibility of a person caring
about a thing is necessary evidence of its being good for her. The
same thought experiment seems to show that the possibility of her
caring about the fact that she would care about something under what
may be inaccessible conditions is also necessary evidence of its being
good for her. Suppose that a person could be brought to care about
something X, but only under conditions C. And suppose that she
cannot care about the fact that she would care about X under C, even
when she is under ordinary optimal conditions. What counterevidence
could be produced to subvert her conclusion that X is not good for
her? She is, after all, reflecting on the information that she would care
about X under C, while under whatever normally attainable conditions
are optimal for reflecting on such matters. Once again, the thought
experiment does not refute externalism. But if it is at least as compel-
ling as the comparable argument supporting simple internalism, then
the first version of the epistemological argument equally supports the
conclusion that a plausible account of a person's good must satisfy
two-tier internalism.
The reasons version of the epistemological argument yields a sim-
ilar result. This argument relies upon the idea that we can show a
person that she has a reason to care about X only by showing her that
it connects with something she already does or at least could care
about. Two-tier internalism exploits this very idea. If a person is to
have a reason to care about X, and thus a reason to think that it is, at
least prima facie, a part of her good, it is not enough that X be among
the possible objects of her concern. Rather, it must be the case that
although she does not now care about X, she would care about it
under certain conditions, and what's more, the fact that she would care
about it under those conditions is something that concerns her even
now, at least if she reflects on the matter carefully. A person has reason
320 Ethics January 1996
to care about something X that she would want under conditions C
only if she has reason to care about the fact that she would want X
under C, and she has reason to care about that fact only if, under
ordinary optimal conditions, she would care about it. This is not yet
to specify the actual concerns that serve to give her reasons. But it is
to require that there be such concerns.
In order for a person to have a reason now to care about what
she would care about under more remote or inaccessible conditions,
there must be a basis in the concerns she would have under conditions
that persons normally can occupy. The reason she may thereby have
to care about something X is, of course, indirect. It may take time and
effort beyond mere reflection on this consideration to develop a direct
concern for X. The fact that she would care about caring about X,
however, is surely necessary to give her a reason to care about X itself.
To show all of this, though, is just to satisfy two-tier internalism.39

'Ought'Implies 'Can'
Perhaps the most immediately compelling argument for the claim that
a plausible account of a person's good must satisfy internalism seeks
to derive internalism from the principle that 'ought' implies 'can'.
David Velleman has recently offered such an argument in direct sup-
port of simple internalism.40 We think of our good, he suggests, as
being that which we ought, at least prima facie, to care about. Yet it
cannot be that we ought to care about something if we are incapable
of caring about it. We can be prima facie obligated to care about
something only if it is at least prima facie an option, an option the
impossibility of which isn't "settled in advance of practical reasoning"
about whether to care about it. And something can only be prima
facie an option for a person, if she is capable of caring about it. Simple
internalism thus derives from a plausible rendering of the principle
that 'ought' implies 'can'. An important implication of seeing this
source of support for simple internalism, Velleman suggests, is that
those who oppose internalism must now explain why a plausible ac-
count of a person's good need not answer to this principle.
Velleman's "'ought' implies 'can' argument" has certain real ad-
vantages over those arguments we have already considered. It does
not rely upon any other argument for internalism about a person's

39. The way in which internalists about a person's good defend their accounts
suggests that they have implicitly recognized this. See, again, Brandt, pp. 154-60. Also
see Griffin, pp. 12-14.
40. See his "Is Motivation Internal to Value?" More specifically, Velleman argues
that simple internalism is derivable from the principle that 'ought' can imply 'can'.
Velleman suggests that an implication of this derivation is that simple internalism may
be the strongest version of internalism that is true.
Rosati Internalismand the Good 321
good or on any other form of internalism: it is free standing. Moreover,
the principle that 'ought' implies 'can' is arguably a fixed point in our
thinking about ought judgments, even if we disagree about how best
to interpret that principle. And when plausibly construed, the prin-
ciple does support simple internalism. But it also supports two-tier
internalism.
Think about what we are asking when we invoke the principle
that 'ought' implies 'can'. When, in the moral case, we ask the question,
"Can a person choose to die rather than to hand over her money to
a thief?" we do not mean to ask, "Can she if we hypnotize her to make
that choice?" or "Can she if we alter her brain?" We mean something
more like this: "Can she make that choice on her own, as she is, and
with all that she can muster from that standpoint?" Now, to return to
the nonmoral case, there may well be things that a person would care
about if only she were under conditions other than her current ones.
Suppose, for instance, that under conditions C person A would care
about X, but the conditions are that she is tripping on LSD. The bare
fact that A would care about X under C surely does not show that A
can care about X in the relevant sense. The ought of "'ought' implies
'can "' is not addressed to the person she is under C. Insofar as judg-
ments about our good present us with prima facie oughts, they are
addressed to us in our actual positions. More precisely speaking, they
are addressed to us as occupants of normally accessible improved
conditions.
A person prima facie ought to care about something only if she
can now care about it, at least indirectly, by caring under ordinary
optimal conditions about the fact that she would care about it under
counterfactual conditions.4' If someone is not thus capable of caring
under conditions persons can normally get into about the fact that she
would care about something under conditions she may never be in,
then she is not in the relevant sense capable of caring about it. Things
that she cannot care about even indirectly under ordinary optimal
conditions are not prima facie options for her, since, from her stand-
point as an agent attempting to determine her good, their impossibility
as options is settled in advance of her practical reasoning. A person
can practically consider whether to care about only what she as agent
is capable of caring about.
A plausible rendering of-the principle that 'ought' implies 'can'
thus supports a stronger version of internalism than simple inter-
nalism. A person's good, according to two-tier internalism, must be

41. In this way, one of two things is possible:first, she may be able over time to
induce in herself a direct concern for the thing itself; second, she may be motivatedto
submit to a procedure of the sort that would bring her to care about what she would
care about under those conditions.
322 Ethics January 1996
something that she can care about, not only in the sense that it is a
possible object of her concern, given the changes she is capable of
undergoing, but that it is a possible, if indirect, object of her concern
under conditions that a person normally can occupy. It is thus a possi-
ble object of her concern in two respects. She would care about it
under possibly remote counterfactual conditions; and she would care
about the fact that she would care about it under those conditions, at
least when she is under ordinary optimal conditions. Her good, as
something that prima facie she ought to care about, is something that
she can care about, at least in the sense that she is capable of caring
about her possible concern for it.42
Autonomy
A final argument for internalism returns to the intuition that supports
it and to the problem that we encountered with simple internalism.
Recall that simple internalism allows among possible goods for a per-
son things that she would come to care about only by undergoing
arbitrary alterations. The fact that we are concerned to exclude from
a person's good things that she would come to want only under alien
conditions suggests that internalism is supported by a second but re-
lated intuition. It suggests that we think that something can suit or fit
a person and hence be good for her only if, in some sense, she could
come to care about it on her own. Internalism is thus supported not
merely by the negative concern to prevent alienation, but by a positive
concern about autonomy. The negative side of insuring that a person's
good is made for or suits her is insuring that it is not something alien
to her. The positive side of insuring that her good suits her is insuring
that it is a reflection of her autonomous nature. We might, then,
attempt to defend internalism about the good directly by appeal to
autonomy.43
We find the kernel of an autonomy-based defense of internalism
about a person's good in Peter Railton's discussion of relational theo-
ries of nonmoral value. Before going on to present his own theory of
a person's nonmoral good, Railton considers the simpler, relational
theory of Hobbes, which he praises as "nonpaternalistic."44The praise,

42. This view can explain, in keeping with the principle that 'ought' implies 'can',
why some nomologically realizable conditions are not candidates for assessing whether
something can be a part of a person's good, whereas some nomologically unrealizable
conditions may be relevant. No person can be fully informed and rational, yet what a
person would care about for herself while under such conditions at least seems relevant.
43. Darwall has argued that there is a distinct autonomist rationale for internalism
about morality, though the rationale he considers differs from the one suggested here.
See "Autonomist Internalism and the Justification of Morals," p. 263. See also "Inter-
nalism and Agency."
44. See "Facts and Values," p. 11.
Rosati Internalismand the Good 323
I think, is mistaken, since the issue of paternalism does not have to
do with what or who determines what a person's good consists in-an
outsider might perfectly well get my good right. Rather, it has to do
with forcing or compelling a person to do or refrain from doing
something, on the grounds that it is for her own good. Perhaps a
better way to describe what seems right about the Hobbesian picture,
despite its shortcomings, is that it seems to respect a person's capacity
for autonomous choice: it recognizes that an alleged good can fit a
person or autonomous agent, and thus be her good, only if its goodness
for her is at least partly determined by her capacity for rational self-
governance.
A somewhat fuller picture of the autonomy-based rationale for
internalism is suggested by John Rawls's conception of a person's good
as given by her rational plan of life. Rawls describes one of the moral
powers of persons as "the capacity to form, revise, and rationally to
pursue a plan of life."45 What can be good for persons is thus con-
strained by one of their central capacities; to suit them it must fit what
they are like. On Rawls's picture, it can fit what they are like if and
only if a person's good is identified with those plans of life that she
might, of her own accord, choose to follow, at least when she chooses
with what Rawls calls "full deliberative rationality." Her good cannot
be provided by a plan that is simply imposed from without.
The "autonomy-based argument" for internalism is an instance
of a more general intuition, namely, that the good of a creature must
suit its own nature. In the case of persons or autonomous agents, their
nature most centrally includes the capacity for rational self-gover-
nance. Their good must thus suit them as creatures with this capacity.
We need not settle whether Rawls has provided the correct account
of a person's good to see what necessary conditions the autonomy-
based argument might impose on a plausible account of a person's
good. It clearly supports simple internalism. Something cannot be a

45. Rawls, "Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory," Journal of Philosophy 77


(1980): 515-72, p. 525, A Theoryof Justice, pp. 407-24, and Political Liberalism(New
York: Columbia University Press, 1993), pp. 72-77. An autonomy-based rationale for
internalism is also suggested by David Velleman's account of an agent's values in Practical
Reflection (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989). According to Velleman,
agents have intellectual motives that incline them toward preferring and performing
only those actions that they find intelligible. Agents are autonomous insofar as these
intellectual motives enable them to "restrain, redirect, and reinforce [their] other motives
for acting, in accordance with [their] own conception of those motives" (p. 173). The
search for values consists in the search for intelligible desires, ones that can be part of
a standing self-conception that enables us to act in ways that we can both anticipate
and understand. This picture suggests that something can be a value for a person only
if it can be intelligible to her and thereby enter into her self-governance. But presumably
a person can find a desire intelligible only if she is capable of caring about having it.
324 Ethics January 1996
part of a person's good if it cannot enter into her rational self-gover-
nance. And it can enter into her self-governance only if she is capable
of caring about it. If she is not capable of caring about it, she cannot
of her own accord rationally pursue it, promote it, or simply cherish it.
The autonomy-based argument, however, supports a yet stronger
necessary condition. Simple internalism insufficiently satisfies the
thought that something can be good for a person only if it can enter
into her rational self-governance. If a person can care about something
only under conditions that she cannot under ordinary optimal condi-
tions care about satisfying, then she cannot on her own rationally
pursue, promote, or cherish the thing in question. In order for an
alleged good to be able to enter into her self-governance, then, she
must not only care about it under certain conditions. She must care
about the fact that she would care about it under those conditions, at
least when she is under ordinary optimal conditions. Otherwise it can-
not be a part of her rational self-governance, since, as we saw earlier,
it cannot be something that she could have reason to pursue or value.
The autonomy-based argument thus also supports as a necessary con-
dition on any plausible account of a person's good that it satisfy two-
tier internalism.

CONCLUSION
I have argued that if we accept internalism about a person's good,
then we ought to accept two-tier internalism. Moreover, we ought to
accept internalism. I suggested at the outset that the arguments for
internalism jointly establish a strong presumption in its favor that
would need to be rebutted by anyone who still wants to reject it. Let's
consider briefly the overall case for internalism about a person's good.
If the foregoing arguments are correct, then an account of a
person's good that satisfies two-tier internalism will fare better than
one that does not on a number of scores. It is better positioned to
account for the normative force of judgments about a person's good,
explain what the property of goodness for a person might be, justify
claims about a person's good, satisfy the principle that 'ought' implies
'can', and show how the good of persons suits their nature as autono-
mous agents. What's more, it can afford us a unified account. Ac-
cording to the internalist thesis defended here, something can be good
for a person only if it bears the right relationship to her motivational
capacities. But then that which is necessary for normative force, justi-
fication, a successful ought judgment, a good suited to autonomous
agents, and a property able to fill the role of goodness for a person
is the very thing that the internalist claims is necessary for something
to be good for a person.
Those who might reject internalism, then, face a difficult chal-
lenge. They must either show why an adequate theory of a person's
Rosati Internalismand the Good 325
good need not account for all that can be accounted for by internalist
theories, or show how an externalist theory can do as well.
But even a strong defense of internalism is of limited help to
those who would construct internalist theories of a person's good. The
real work will come with selecting from among diverse accounts, all
of which may satisfy two-tier internalism. Whether the process of
theory selection can overcome the vexing problem of disagreement
that has plagued discussions of moral realism is an open question.
Without trying to answer that question, it is worth noting that two-
tier internalism makes room for what may be a quite plausible antireal-
ism about an individual's nonmoral good.46
Suppose then that many sets of counterfactual conditions, with
differing implications for a person's good, could prompt a person's
concern under ordinary optimal conditions. Proponents of internalist
theories of a person's good would face at least two difficulties. First,
the conditions favored by theorists may not always be among those
that prompt a person's concern. A given individual may, for instance,
find that a proposed set of conditions does not speak fully to her
concerns in wondering about her good. Second, even if they are among
those that prompt an individual's concern, she may care less about
what she would care about under those conditions than under different
conditions. To defend one theory over others, any given theorist must
be able to explain what mistake a person would make if she dismissed,
for self-regarding reasons, the determinations of his or her theory.
Yet she may be making no linguistic, logical, or factual mistake.47 In the
end, the question of what conditions are appropriate for determining a
person's good may be a normative question the answer to which de-
pends for any individual on what ideal of the person she is inclined
or can be brought to embrace.48
The sort of antirealism about a person's good toward which these
considerations gesture isjust the sort that might be plausible-namely,
one that itself satisfies two-tier internalism. Such an antirealism could
respect the intuitions that support internalism. It would hold that not
just anything can be good for a person-only those things that she is
capable of caring about. It would hold further that, since persons are
autonomous agents, something can be good for them only if it can
enter into their rational self-governance, and for this they must be

46. For efforts to derive moral relativism from internalism, see Drier; and Gilbert
Harman, "Moral Relativism," Philosophical Review 85 (1975): 3-22, and "Metaphysical
Realism and Moral Relativism: Reflections on Hilary Putnam's Reason, Truth, and His-
tory,"Journal of Philosophy 79 (1982): 568-75.
47. I borrow this way of expressing the point from Gibbard, p. 12.
48. See my "Naturalism, Normativity, and the Open Question Argument" for
further discussion of this final point.
326 Ethics January 1996
capable of caring about their possible concern for that thing. It would,
of course, reject the existence of a property of goodness for a person,
but would be in a position to explain why no such property exists.
Finally, it could explain how judgments about what is good for a
person might be both action guiding and susceptible to justification.