Needing and Necessity

In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics. Oxford University Press. pp. 170-192 (2018)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Claims about needs are a ubiquitous feature of everyday practical discourse. It is therefore unsurprising that needs have long been a topic of interest in moral philosophy, applied ethics, and political philosophy. Philosophers have devoted much time and energy to developing theories of the nature of human needs and the like. Philosophers working on needs are typically committed to the idea that there are different kinds of needs and that within the different kinds of needs is a privileged class of needs that is especially normatively significant. Some philosophers go further and make rather grand claims about needs. They claim that needs are central or fundamental to moral thinking and that we must have a needs-centred moral theory or a general reorientation of moral philosophy around needs. In this paper I aim to do two things. First, to show how applying recent work on modal terms can help us to understand thought and talk about needs. This is the positive part. I then use these ideas to cast doubt on the more ambitious claims about needs. Put briefly, a proper understanding of claims about needs undermines the idea that the concept of needs is fundamental in moral thought or in moral philosophy. Ambitious needs theory fails.
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Revision history
Archival date: 2018-01-05
View upload history
References found in this work BETA
.Wiggins, David
Modern Moral Philosophy.Anscombe, G. E. M.

View all 25 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Added to PP index

Total views
111 ( #26,223 of 43,775 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
28 ( #23,846 of 43,775 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks to external links.