In Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics 7. pp. 117-135 (2017)

Subjective rightness (or ‘ought’ or obligation) seems to be the sense of rightness that should be action guiding where more objective senses fail. However, there is an ambiguity between strong and weak senses of action guidance. No general account of subjective rightness can succeed in being action guiding in a strong sense by providing an immediately helpful instruction, because helpfulness always depends on the context. Subjective rightness is action guiding in a weaker sense, in that it is always accessible and comprehensible to the agent. Hence traditional belief formulations say roughly, “do what you believe is best.” This is not yet a satisfactory formulation, because it cannot make sense of our ongoing subjective duty to improve our beliefs. The notion of ‘trying’ does capture the dynamic and diachronic nature of our subjective obligation. Thus, we should formulate subjective obligation in terms of trying: “try to do well by morality.”
Keywords subjective obligation  subjective ought  subjective rightness  action guidance  culpable ignorance  trying  holly smith
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

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

Brainstorms.Daniel C. Dennett - 1978 - MIT Press.
Brainstorms.Daniel Dennett - 1978 - Philosophy of Science 47 (2):326-327.

View all 40 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Decision-Making Under Moral Uncertainty.Andrew Sepielli - forthcoming - In Karen Jones, Mark C. Timmons & Aaron Zimmerman (eds.), Routledge Handbook on Moral Epistemology.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Subjective Rightness.Holly M. Smith - 2010 - Social Philosophy and Policy 27 (2):64-110.
Subjective Rightness: Holly M. Smith.Holly M. Smith - 2010 - Social Philosophy and Policy 27 (2):64-110.
Moral Rightness and the Significance of Law: Why, How and When Mistake of Law Matters.Re'em Segev - 2014 - University of Toronto Law Journal, Forthcoming 64:36-63.
Objective or Subjective 'Ought'?Sven Ove Hansson - 2010 - Utilitas 22 (1):33-35.
A Dilemma for Objective Act-Utilitarianism.Gerald Lang - 2004 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 3 (2):221-239.
Subjective Action.Susanne Herrmann-Sinai - 2016 - In Susanne Herrmann-Sinai & Lucia Ziglioli (eds.), Hegel's Philosophical Psychology. Abingdon / New York: Routledge. pp. 127–152.
Objectivism and Prospectivism About Rightness.Elinor Mason - 2013 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 7 (2):1-22.
H. A. Prichard's Moral Epistemology.William Joseph O'Brien - 1988 - Dissertation, The University of Iowa
Subjective Theories of Well-Being.Chris Heathwood - 2014 - In Ben Eggleston & Dale Miller (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Utilitarianism. Cambridge University Press. pp. 199-219.


Added to PP index

Total views
170 ( #68,884 of 2,505,154 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
71 ( #11,270 of 2,505,154 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes