Visibly agitated, Adam is sticking pins into a cushion. Are we really going to say that he acts rightly if he's doing so in order to put away all the pins that had fallen on the floor but impermissibly if he's doing so in the hopes of putting a hex on someone?
I've seen a test for determining whether motives and intentions contribute to the rightness or wrongness of an action. The thought is that if certain intentions or motives can constitute a kind of wrong (e.g., the motive of malice), when present and there are no overriding reasons to perform X, it is impermissible to X and this is chalked up to the deontic significance of the motive that would lead to X-ing. I can't help but think that this can't be the right test. It seems that someone who puts pins in a cushion might act from the motive from malice, there might be no further reasons that bear on whether to place the pins there, but I just can't accept that they've acted impermissibly in putting the pins to the doll and ought to have acted otherwise.
I'd like to think a slightly more promising test that would also support the idea that motives and intentions can contribute to the wrongness of an action is this. We do not ask whether the agent ought to act otherwise or acts impermissibly in acting from a certain motive or on a certain intention, but ask instead whether they will thereby generate further duties that they ought not feel free creating. I'm not sure how well this proposal stands up to the example. I guess we could say that someone who acts from the motive of hexing another thereby has a duty to work on his self-control? Maybe they have a duty to seek forgiveness from their intended victim? I sort of like this account, but I have to confess I'd not want to have to respond to the argument from silly malicious attempts if I ever were to defend the view that motives and intentions can have deontic significance.