Date of Completion


Embargo Period



metaethics, virtue ethics, ethics, naturalism, motivation, Michael Smith, Aristotle, externalism, internalism, mechanical systems

Major Advisor

Thomas D. Bontly

Associate Advisor

Michael P. Lynch

Associate Advisor

Samuel C. Wheeler III

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


The purpose of my dissertation is to work toward providing a naturalistic solution to the moral problem. The moral problem arises because moral claims appear to be objectively true and have an essential act-guiding nature. The first chapter of my dissertation lays out some of the main views that have been held concerning the connection between moral judgments and moral motivation. The rest of the dissertation consists of two main projects. The first involves arguing that Michael Smith’s solution to the moral problem is implausible. In chapter two I draw upon pre-existing work as well as my own original contributions to argue that Smith’s case against moral motivational externalism falls short. In chapter three I argue that Smith’s solution to the moral problem does not deliver substantive moral truths. The second half of the dissertation focuses on developing an Aristotelian-style virtue ethics solution to the moral problem. Chapter four focuses on moral motivation in Aristotle and argues that his account need not be interpreted as internalist. In addition, an independent argument is offered in support of motivational externalism. In chapter five I defend virtue ethics from some criticisms that could be advanced against it and offer an analogy with mechanical systems to help dispel one particularly damning criticism. I defend the analogy itself from a number of objections that could be advanced against it and argue that it can provide insight into the metaphysics of morality.