In a number of previous conversations, I've tried to explain why I think that people who decide to do "the right thing" aren't particularly praiseworthy.
Nice people do the right thing because they feel like it. They do not, in some spiritual sense, muster up The Will To Do Good and apply it to their situation. Instead, their values make them feel like doing the right thing instead of pursuing some other option.
Recent neuroscience seems to support this opinion. If you have a minute, read this article at the Washington Post.
The scientists stared at each other. Grafman was thinking, "Whoa -- wait a minute!"(h/t GKB.)
The results were showing that when the volunteers placed the interests of others before their own, the generosity activated a primitive part of the brain that usually lights up in response to food or sex. Altruism, the experiment suggested, was not a superior moral faculty that suppresses basic selfish urges but rather was basic to the brain, hard-wired and pleasurable.