Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 159-174

First online:

The Difference Between Moral and Rational “Oughts”: An Expressivist Account

  • Peter SchulteAffiliated withInstitut für Philosophie, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg Email author 

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Morality and rationality are both normative: the moral claim “you ought to help others” is a genuine normative judgment, as well as the rational maxim “you ought to brush your teeth twice a day”. But it seems that there is a crucial difference these two judgments. In the first part of this paper, I argue that this difference is to be understood as a difference between two kinds of normativity: demanding and recommending normativity. But the crucial task is, of course, to explain the difference. In the second part of this paper, I suggest that metaethical expressivists can provide a good explanation: by extending the analysis of ordinary (non-normative) demands and recommendations to normative judgments, they can formulate a convincing account that captures the key differences between morality and rationality.


Metaethics Normativity Expressivism Moral judgments Rationality Speech acts