Collective Acceptance and the Is-Ought Argument

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (3):465-480 (2013)
According to John Searle’s well-known Is-Ought Argument, it is possible to derive an ought-statement from is-statements only. This argument concerns obligations involved in institutions such as promising, and it relies on the idea that institutions can be conceptualized in terms of constitutive rules. In this paper, I argue that the structure of this argument has never been fully appreciated. Starting from my status account of constitutive rules, I reconstruct the argument and establish that it is valid. This reconstruction reveals that the soundness of the argument depends on whether collective acceptance as such can generate obligations. Margaret Gilbert has argued that it can, and thus far some of her central arguments have not been addressed. The upshot is that the Is-Ought Argument deserves to be taken seriously once again
Keywords Collective acceptance  Constitutive rule  Institution  Is-Ought thesis  Promise  Searle
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-012-9353-8
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