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December 08, 2005


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I'm not sure I find this very plausible. I hardly ever use the categorical 'ought' to demand that my listener himself or herself would be motivated to do anything. In most discussions, often moral in their content, I talk with someone about what some third party ought to do, or ought to have done, what ought to be done in hypothetical cases, and so on. Many times I even know that myself or the speaker will have no chance to get in to the circumstances where those oughts would come into play. It is rare that I get to say what someone ought to do to that very person in a way that could have an effect on what they are motivated to do. And, given your analysis of the categorical ought none of this would make much sense. So as far as I can see something else must being going on in our 'ought' discourse.


Good point, I erred in focusing exclusively on second-personal cases. But third-personal cases seem to me if anything even simpler, as these are not offered as advice at all. The relevant ends are just assumed. For example, if I say "Jim ought not to have taken a bath with his space heater", I think that "in order that he not injure himself" hardly need be uttered. Further, the rhetorical function can still be intact: the vital point is that by failing to specify the relevant end, a speaker can express his or her own commitment to the end as beyond critical deliberation. This account can invoke all the same functions for 'ought' utterances that expressivists can.

Couple of points. First, it seems like this account of use and pragmatics of 'ought' is available for everyone from naive emotivists to most platonic realists. The latter can say that, yes, this is the practical purpose for which ought claims are used even though they are by their linguistic meaning attempts to describe ought facts. So, on those grounds no-one should have a need to worry.

But I do however worry that this view makes it impossible to discuss the most fundamental ends which one ought to have. That kinds of debates seem to be intelligible and important when we discuss what kind of persons for instance we ought to be. Your account seem to base on the analysis of ought claims on the idea that the context always provides a further end for which the acts described as the ones one ought to do are instrumental. I wonder.

(1) First, if any view can solve the problem in this way, then it's not much of a problem. Perhaps the objection is supposed to be: since any theory can be reconciled with the data in this manner, this success doesn't give any support to my theory in particular. But (a) that objection misses the dialectic here. I'm not claiming that my end-relational theory ought to be accepted BECAUSE it can best explain the categorical use of ought. Rather, I have argued for my theory on the grounds of its ability to account for other uses of 'ought', and have appealed to pragmatics merely to show that my theory is compatible with the categorical use. The reason you should accept the theory is rather its ability to unify more of the data than any rival theory. (b) But I also challenge the claim that this account of pragmatics is available to any theory. I've attempted to give a detailed account of why, on the basis of well-documented and noncontroversial facts about conversation, the use of nonqualified 'ought' sentences in particular contexts can be expected to express attitudes and demands. It's not just that I've CLAIMED that end-relational 'ought' judgements are typically used for practical purposes -- I would think it is just obvious that they would be. It's not clear that the platonist is on a par here.

(2) Your second concern is very well motivated. The FINAL section of my paper (after the section on categorical uses) offers a solution. I'm sure I can't satisfy you here, but here's a few quick suggestions. First, it is possible to deliberate over what to do without deliberating over what you OUGHT to do. (Consider Buridan's Ass). Second, you can always judge ends from the point of view of other ends (which can be coherentist rather than foundationalist in structure). Third, I suggest that it is easy to explain, on the assumption that my semantics and pragmatics are correct, how 'ought' can be used as if it expressed a simple property of 'being the thing to do'. I know this won't seem adequate, but I don't think there is an easy answer to this.

the you ought to or else - seems to be by default

"or else I will not approval of your actions"
or "you will be the subject of my disapproval"

and one can extrapolate any further meaning from your knowledge of the person saying it and how they care about the topic and whether you think their aproval is worth anything and whether it signifies anything.

You dont even have to find out about the event of course.

For example there are cases where I miht say - "you out to be nice to your pet lizard" but since I dont know you I will never find out if you hurt it. BUT my purpose is to make you think of my disapproval and feel it (despite the fact I am not feeling it myself) if you try to hurt the lizard.

Can you explain us the uses of ought, because we don`t understand why we don`t use the preposition "TO" in negative way.

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