The amoralist is someone who pays no heed to moral demands. He might recognize that a particular action is morally required, but he denies that this gives him any reason to do it. As I wrote in a recent post:
I can imagine someone sincerely saying, "Yes, I agree that X would be the right thing to do. But so what? I don't care about morality, I just want what's best for me, and I can better achieve that by doing Y." Upon hearing such a stark admission of amorality, I would probably be shocked and disgusted at the person's vicious character. But I would not consider their statement to be incoherent.
I then go on to describe how motivational internalists have to deny that such a being is possible. They must say the statement is insincere - the apparent "amoralist" isn't really talking about morality, but rather (inverted commas, what other people call) "morality". This response fails to take the amoralist seriously. As Brink writes, "We can imagine someone who regards certain demands as moral demands - and not simply as conventional moral demands - and yet remains unmoved." (p.148) There is nothing incoherent about this picture, thus proving that motivating force is not internal to the concept of morality after all. We should reject motivational internalism.
Of course, we all recognize that there is some significant connection between moral judgments and motivation. But internalism mistakes this connection, and a better account of it can be provided by externalism:
Though it makes the motivational force of moral considerations a matter of contingent psychological fact, externalism can base this motivation on "deep" or widely shared psychological facts. If, for example, sympathy is, as Hume held, a deeply seated and widely shared psychological trait, then, as a matter of contingent psychological fact, the vast majority of people will have at least a desire to comply (even) with other-regarding moral demands. Moral motivation, on such a view, can be widespread and predictable, even if it is neither necessary, nor universal, nor overriding. These are limitations in the actual motivational force of moral considerations which, I think, reflection on common sense morality recognizes. (David Brink, 'Externalist Moral Realism' in M. Smith, Meta-ethics, p.149.)
We should also reject moral reasons internalism, for similar reasons. In this case, it is the coherence of the amoralist's challenge, rather than his mere existence, which refutes the theory. The amoralist asks, "why should I be moral?", and this is a fair question. But the reasons internalist must reject it out of hand as incoherent. According to the internalist, it is inherent in the concept of morality that it provides reasons to act, so to recognize a moral demand just is to recognize a reason to act. So it is senseless to ask the amoralist's question; the internalist must reject it as conceptually confused.
The internalist can support this position by arguing that the question "why be moral?" is equivalent to the question "why should I do what I ought?", and that this is clearly incoherent. But this argument rests on an equivocation. It ignores that there are different kinds of 'should'. Clearly the amoralist is not asking why he morally ought to be moral - that would indeed be senseless! Rather, he is asking for a non-moral justification. He is appealing to a rational 'should'. In other words, he is asking: "what reason do I have to fulfil my moral obligations?", or, equivalently, "is the framework of morality genuinely reason-giving?" These are clearly coherent, and indeed vitally important, philosophical questions.
The conceptual coherence of such questions is sufficient to refute moral reasons internalism. If there are moral reasons, this is not merely a conceptual truth about morality, but also depends upon our substantive theory of rationality, the content of morality, and facts about agents and the world. (Brink, p.153) We have thus established externalism. And just as well, since internalism can only provide facile answers to the difficult questions above ("Why be moral? You just should - it's built into the very definition of the concept!"). If we want to find a more satisfying answer, we must first admit externalism. Only then can the question be seriously asked - and thus seriously answered.