Moral self-determination: The nature, existence, and formation of moral motivation

Randall Curren, Richard M. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


This paper addresses three basic questions about moral motivation. Concerning the nature of moral motivation, it argues that it involves responsiveness to both reasons of morality and the value of persons and everything else of value. Moral motivation is thus identified as reason-responsive appropriate valuing. Regarding whether it is possible for people to be morally motivated, the paper relies on Self-Determination Theory (SDT) to show how moral motivation is a likely product of education that is need-supportive in modeling appropriate valuing and engaging students in the kinds of reasoning that are essential to moral motivation. Virtuous motivation that inclines people to engage in morally motivated acts is equated with being morally self-determining or achieving the right kind of integrated motivation. SDT shows how people come to be morally motivated, and the paper concludes that an identified aspiration to be virtuous may play a significant role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-315
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Moral Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2 Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Journal of Moral Education Ltd.


  • internalization
  • Moral motivation
  • self-determination theory
  • virtue


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