On Scepticism About Ought Simpliciter

Australasian Journal of Philosophy (2023)
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Scepticism about ought simpliciter is the view that there is no such thing as what one ought simpliciter to do. Instead, practical deliberation is governed by a plurality of normative standpoints, each authoritative from their own perspective but none authoritative simpliciter. This paper aims to resist such scepticism. After setting out the challenge in general terms, I argue that scepticism can be resisted by rejecting a key assumption in the sceptic’s argument. This is the assumption that standpoint-relative ought judgments bring with them a commitment to act in accordance with those judgments. Instead, I propose an alternative account of our normative concepts according to which only ought simpliciter judgments commit one to acting in accordance with those judgments. In addition to answering the sceptical challenge, the proposal offers an independently motivated account of what makes a concept normatively authoritative.

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James L. D. Brown
University of Sheffield


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