Integrity as Incentive-Insensitivity: Moral Incapacity Means One can’t be Bought

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper develops Bernard Williams’s claim that moral incapacity – i.e., one’s inability to consider an action as one that could be performed intentionally – ‘is proof against reward’. It argues that we should re-construe the notion of moral incapacity in terms of self-identification with a project, commitment, value, etc. in a way that renders this project constitutive of one’s self-identity. This consists in one’s being insensitive to incentives to reconsider or get oneself to change one’s identification with this project. More precisely, self-identification with a project implies that no state-given reason can justify for oneself reconsidering, or getting oneself to revise, or abandon one’s identification with that project. This view ties together integrity and self-identification, and avoids problems common to competing views: it avoids regress problems faced by hierarchical theories of identification; it demonstrates that integrationist views of identification overlook the fact that a deep, well-integrated attitude may fail to be incentive-insensitive; and it helps explain what’s wrong with ‘perverse’ cases, where one values acting in a way that one does not all things consider value. It also improves on Williams’s own view, by construing moral incapacity not merely in terms of one’s incapacity to perform an action (that undermines one’s project and thus violates one’s integrity), but also in terms of one’s incapacity to reconsider one’s commitment (to said project).

Original languageEnglish
StateAccepted/In press - 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. 2024.


  • Integrity
  • Moral incapacity
  • Self-Identification
  • State-given reasons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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