David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (3):433-451 (2012)
Ethical theorists often assume that the verb ?ought? means roughly ?has an obligation?; however, this assumption is belied by the diversity of ?flavours? of ought-sentences in English. A natural response is that ?ought? is ambiguous. However, this response is incompatible with the standard treatment of ?ought? by theoretical semanticists, who classify ?ought? as a member of the family of modal verbs, which are treated uniformly as operators. To many ethical theorists, however, this popular treatment in linguistics seems to elide an important distinction between agential and non-agential ought-statements. The thought is that ?ought? must have at least two senses, one implicating agency and connected to obligations, and another covering other uses. In this paper, I pursue some resolution of this tension between semantic theory and ethical theory with respect to the meaning of ?ought?. To this end, I consider what I believe to be the most linguistically sophisticated argument for the view that the word ?ought? is ambiguous between agential and non-agential senses. This argument, due to Mark Schroeder, is instructive but based on a false claim about the syntax of agential ought-sentences?or so I attempt to show by first situating Schroeder's argument in its proper linguistic background and then discussing some syntactic evidence that he fails to appreciate. Then, I use the failure of this argument to motivate some more general reflections on how the standard treatment of ?ought? by theoretical semanticists might be refined in the light of the distinction important to ethical theory between agential and non-agential ought-statements, but also on how ethical theory might benefit from more careful study of the dominant treatment of modals as operators in theoretical semantics
|Keywords||metaethics semantics modals|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
Fabrizio Cariani (2013). 'Ought' and Resolution Semantics. Noûs 47 (3):534-558.
Hector-Neri Castañeda (1963). Morality and the Language of Conduct. Detroit, Wayne State University Press.
Hector-Neri Castañeda (1975). Thinking and Doing: The Philosophical Foundations of Institutions. D. Reidel Pub. Co..
James Dreier (2009). Practical Conditionals. In David Sobel & Steven Wall (eds.), Reasons for Action. Cambridge University Press. 116--133.
Stephen Finlay (2010). What Ought Probably Means, and Why You Can't Detach It. Synthese 177 (1):67 - 89.
Citations of this work BETA
Stephen Finlay & Justin Snedegar (2013). One Ought Too Many. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 86 (1):102-124.
Jonathan McKeown‐Green, Glen Pettigrove & Aness Webster (forthcoming). Conjuring Ethics From Words. Noûs.
Guy Fletcher (2013). A Millian Objection to Reasons as Evidence. Utilitas 25 (3):417-420.
Kate Nolfi (2013). Why is Epistemic Evaluation Prescriptive? Inquiry 57 (1):97-121.
Similar books and articles
Matthew Chrisman (2012). On the Meaning of 'Ought'. In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, vol. 7. Oxford University Press. 304.
Markus E. Schlosser (2008). Agent-Causation and Agential Control. Philosophical Explorations 11 (1):3-21.
Paul Katsafanas (2011). Activity and Passivity in Reflective Agency. In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics Volume 6. Oxford. 219.
Jennifer M. Morton (2013). Deliberating for Our Far Future Selves. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (4):809-828.
Matthew Chrisman (2010). Expressivism, Inferentialism, and the Theory of Meaning. In Michael Brady (ed.), New Waves in Metaethics. Palgrave-Macmillan.
Joseph Rouse (2004). Barad's Feminist Naturalism. Hypatia 19 (1):142-161.
Andy Egan, John Hawthorne & Brian Weatherson (2005). Epistemic Modals in Context. In G. Preyer & G. Peter (eds.), Contextualism in Philosophy. Oxford University Press. 131-170.
Seth Yalcin (2007). Epistemic Modals. Mind 116 (464):983-1026.
Seth Yalcin (2010). Probability Operators. Philosophy Compass 5 (11):916-37.
Brian Rabern (2012). Propositions and Multiple Indexing. Thought 1 (2):116-124.
Ernest Lepore (2002). Does Syntax Reveal Semantics?: A Case Study of Complex Demonstratives. Philosophical Perspectives 16:17--41.
Benjamin Schnieder (2010). Expressivism Concerning Epistemic Modals. Philosophical Quarterly 60 (240):601-615.
Joshua D. Crabill (2013). Suppose Yalcin is Wrong About Epistemic Modals. Philosophical Studies 162 (3):625-635.
Added to index2011-08-19
Total downloads119 ( #8,068 of 1,101,740 )
Recent downloads (6 months)20 ( #7,888 of 1,101,740 )
How can I increase my downloads?