AbstractMany philosophers have suggested that claims of need play a special normative role in ethical thought and talk. But what do such claims mean? What does this special role amount to? Progress on these questions can be made by attending to a puzzle concerning some linguistic differences between two types of 'need' sentence: one where 'need' occurs as a verb, and where it occurs as a noun. I argue that the resources developed to solve the puzzle advance our understanding of the metaphysics of need, the meaning of 'need' sentences, and the function of claims of need in ethical discourse.
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