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The 'Banality of Good'?

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Whilst there has been much talk about the supposed 'banality of evil', there has been comparatively little discussion of the putatively parallel notion of the 'banality of good'. This paper explores some of the resonances of the phrase and proposes that banally good acts have the leading feature that the agent's reasons for action do not include the thought that the effects intended are good (either morally or practically). It is argued, against David Blumenthal, that the label 'banal' should not be applied to acts of spontaneous or everyday goodness but instead to those characterized by a lack of genuine moral commitment, for example, acts done purely in obedience to authority, or from self-seeking motives or mere habit. Finally, it is proposed that the doing of good in a banal mode may reasonably be encouraged in circumstances where more estimable moral motives may be lacking or feeble.


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