I Ought, Therefore I Can

Philosophical Studies 136 (2):167-216 (2007)
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I defend the following version of the ought-implies-can principle: (OIC) by virtue of conceptual necessity, an agent at a given time has an (objective, pro tanto) obligation to do only what the agent at that time has the ability and opportunity to do. In short, obligations correspond to ability plus opportunity. My argument has three premises: (1) obligations correspond to reasons for action; (2) reasons for action correspond to potential actions; (3) potential actions correspond to ability plus opportunity. In the bulk of the paper I address six objections to OIC: three objections based on putative counterexamples, and three objections based on arguments to the effect that OIC conflicts with the is/ought thesis, the possibility of hard determinism, and the denial of the Principle of Alternate Possibilities

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Peter Vranas
University of Wisconsin, Madison


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