The Standard-Relational Theory of 'Ought' and the Oughtistic Theory of Reasons

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89 (1):131-147 (2011)
Abstract
The idea that normative statements implicitly refer to standards has been around for quite some time. It is usually defended by normative antirealists, who tend to be attracted to Humean theories of reasons. But this is an awkward combination: 'A ought to X' entails that there are reasons for A to X, and 'A ought to X all things considered' entails that the balance of reasons favours X-ing. If the standards implicitly referred to are not those of the agent, then why would these entailments hold? After all, Humeanism says that 'A has a reason to X' is true if and only if A has some desire which is furthered by X-ing. In this paper, I develop a standard-relational theory of 'ought' and a non-Humean theory of reasons (oughtism). Together, they explain why 'A ought to X' entails not only that there are reasons for A to X, but also that the balance of reasons favours X-ing. The latter explanation depends on a theory of weight, in which the weight of a reason depends on the position of a rule (standard) in an order of priorities. The theories are truth-conditional, but do not require objective normative facts for the truth of 'ought' judgments and judgments about reasons.
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