While the connection between concepts of one and the same auxiliary dimension (like between good and bad) may already cause problems, the connections between concepts of different dimensions (like between wrong and vicious) may even be more problematic and controversial. In order to deal with these relationships we must have a clear picture, not only of what is going on when a person acts, but also of what is going on when 'e decides to act. Too many ethical theorists believe that moral agents base their judgments on the facts of the moment and of the past, or even on future consequences. Unfortunately they are mistaken in so thinking: instead, people base their judgments upon personal information and presuppositions. (Let us say: including their personal interpretation of the facts.) Not only does a moral agent not literally base 'er judgment on the facts, 'er conduct need not be rational or purposeful either: in practise it may be intuitive, emotional, impulsive or even antirational. However, when a person does not just act like a mere body would, we must assume that 'e has one or more goals or objectives, and that 'e acts rationally or purposefully, thus promoting or furthering 'er goal or objectives. This rational or purposeful action is therefore determined by a goal (or objectives), and information and presuppositions concerning the relevant, factual and modal conditions.

From the point of view of rationality itself it does not matter what someone's goal is. It may be any: one's own well-being, somebody else's well-being, truth, deceit, and not less any goal which in the eyes of 'sane' people would look completely foolish or immoral. We need not be afraid of propounding such a rational decision-theory, notwithstanding the great antipathy many people feel towards anything that smells of rationality. Presumably they feel so, because many 'rationalists' embraced the wrong ultimate values and one-sided presuppositions, not because there is anything incorrect with rationality per se. One can rationally promote egoism and equally rationally promote altruism. A moral rational decision, however, is founded upon a (normative) value-theory (or a 'theory of duty' or 'of right', if not accepted as part of a value-theory). Such a theory tells the moral agent what kind of situation is the better one and what are good-making features (or right-making characteristics of duties to be fulfilled). The theory to which the practical problems of the decision and action themselves belong has been called "normative theory", but this term is obviously far too broad, and we shall speak of "(normative)" or "(moral) decision-theory". A moral decision-theory presupposes --as has been said before about this 'normative theory'-- 'some value-theory and derives from it the requirements which it imposes on the behavior of individuals'.

Ideally speaking an agent acts in such a way that 'e furthers the goal, or one of the goals, of the theory of value; that is, 'ideally speaking' from the value-theoretical point of view. From this point of view it is performance which counts. The relationship between rightness and goodness is then simply that an action is right which promotes the good. (It does not follow from this that an action can only be right if promoting what is good.) In practise, however, the situation is often far from ideal because the agent's information and/or presuppositions may be wrong or insufficient, and it is on the basis of these that 'e has to decide what to do. Even tho the agent's intention may be to promote the good, or to fulfil a certain duty, 'er actual performance may have very bad consequences, or may not result in the fulfilment of that duty at all. From a decision-theoretical standpoint the moral agent should not do what promotes the good on the basis of the facts (which results in the right performance) but what may be expected to promote the good on the basis of 'er own information and reasonable presuppositions. When 'e does act in such a way --and a rational moral agent cannot do differently--, 'er action is the right one. Hence, on the decision-theoretical level the relationship between rightness and goodness has become more indirect, and from the performatory standpoint it may even be said to be lacking, for an intentionally right action may have bad consequences (or result in the nonfulfilment of a duty). It is then wrong on the performatory scheme, but can be excused on the intentional scheme.

Many acts can only be described within the framework of a social institution. (If it is said "all acts", then (social) institution is used in a very broad sense.) For example, voting can only be described by referring to the whole formal system within which it takes place; raising a hand or marking a piece of paper is not voting by itself. Now, when judging acts or abstentions from a decision-theoretical, moral position one must take care that the information and presuppositions concerning the particular act or abstention do not contradict the information and presuppositions concerning the whole institution, and participation or nonparticipation in that institution. It is a value-theory in combination with information and presuppositions concerning a particular act or abstention which determines whether an act or abstention is right, and it is the same value-theory which also determines in combination with other information and presuppositions whether one should participate in an institution, or whether the upkeep of that institution itself is right.

But not only should the value-theory be the same for the act and for the institution on which its definition depends, also the information and particularly the presuppositions with regard to the singular act and the whole institution should be such that they can be rationally accepted by one agent on the basis of one value-theory. And just as acts can be right on the intentional level, yet wrong on the performatory level, so it could be that a whole institution is normatively acceptable on the basis of the agent's information and presuppositions about it, yet unacceptable on the basis of the facts, or vice versa. As illustrated in figure I., this makes the situation in decision-theoretical ethics clearly more complicated than in performatory ethics. The decision-theoretical scheme is also more realistic, however, as ethics is supposed to deal with the conduct of persons, not just with the behavior of bodies.

Every value-theory has one or more axiomatic, normative values (also called "nonmoral values" to distinguish them from the 'moral values' which persons, groups of persons or elements of personality are said to have). Being axiomatic, these normative values are ultimate. Being ultimate, they are ends in themselves which should not be treated as means to other ends. However, when an agent intends to promote a value which is ultimate in the value-theory concerned, it is not necessarily the case that 'e promotes that value, or tries to promote that value as an end in itself. It may be that 'e promotes it, because the promotion of that value by 'imself is a means to another end. That it is a means to another end does not imply that 'e does not intend to promote it. On the contrary: if the promotion of a certain objective will serve a higher goal, it is rational to promote that objective, in spite of its not being ultimate. We are thus faced with a contradiction: according to the value-theory a certain value is ultimate, whereas the agent treats it as a means to something else. That is why it is not only the agent's performance and intention which count, but also 'er motivation. As regards ultimate values the agent's intention should be 'er motive (and 'er performance should be what 'e intends to do). If so, then the motive is traditionally called "virtuous" and the agent "not blameworthy" or, perhaps, "praiseworthy". However, if the motive is detrimental to an ultimate value, it is vicious and the agent blameworthy. (We will not go into what it means that a motive is 'virtuous' in one respect and 'vicious' in another respect, or neither virtuous nor vicious.)

The ethical profile now uncovered turns out to have three successive layers or horizons: a performatory, an intentional and a motivational one. The sharpest line in this profile is the one which separates the performatory horizon (the 'A-horizon') from the intentional horizon (the 'B-horizon'). The line between the intentional and the motivational horizons (the 'B-' and 'C-horizons') is much vaguer. People (also ethical theorists) often do not differentiate between intention and motive. In those cases that it is indeed not necessary to do this, we ourselves will speak of "(the) decision-theoretical (aspect of) ethics" as contrasted with "its performatory aspect" or "performatory ethics".

When endeavoring to locate the morality of doing (and also the normativeness of being) in the ethical profile, we find that it lies firm in the performatory horizon (without necessarily being absent in the intentional horizon); when endeavoring to locate the morality of being, we find it in the motivational horizon. This, however, is not the sole difference between the two forms of morality: the former starts in theory with individual actions and their good consequences or right-making characteristics, whereas the latter is not so much concerned with one motive which prompted one action, but rather with long-term motivational considerations. In an ethical doctrine based on performance the good consequences or right-making characteristics are believed to come first and moral value of character (or 'virtue') is made to depend on the right actions it promotes in the long run; in an ethical doctrine based on motivation (or 'ethics of virtue') it is the motive which is believed to come first, and the rightness of an act is made to depend on the motive from which it was done. This 'motivism' --as it is also called-- explains things back to front (a case of hysteron proteron), but it is certainly meritorious for demonstrating to us that there is also some worthwhile material lying beneath the superficial layer of brute factual, modal and normative elements.

A nonmotivist ethical doctrine which is not concerned about the agent's intentions and motives at all is (purely) performatory: it does not reach beyond the scope of the ethics of performance. If it is also concerned about the agent's intention, then it is (performatory-)intentional; and if also about motives, then (performatory-)motivational. Both intentional and motivational ethical doctrines are decision-theoretical. The connection between the three horizons of the ethical profile and the depth of nonmotivist ethical doctrines is shown in figure I.

©MVVM, 41-63 ASWW

Model of Neutral-Inclusivity
Book of Instruments
Elements of Normative Philosophy
The Horizons of a Triple-Tiered Profile