, Volume 154, Issue 3, pp 451-463
Date: 13 May 2011

“Ought”, reasons, and vice: a comment on Judith Jarvis Thomson’s Normativity

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Judith Jarvis Thomson’s Normativity is a sweeping discussion of normative thought in all of its forms.

Thomson (2008); all parenthetical page citations in what follows refer to this book.

On the interesting and provocative account that she defends, normativity is both ubiquitous and multifarious: evaluative properties are intimately connected with our understanding of the nature of the things to which they are ascribed, and these in turn form the basis for directive thought about how things ought to be.

Thomson’s large thesis in the book is that directives—claims about what people, animals, and objects ought to do—may be reduced to a certain class of evaluatives. On the (decidedly non-consequentialist) theory that she favors, directives are to be reduced to one particular evaluative property, that of being a defective instance of a kind. Omitting various qualifications and refinements, A ought to V, on this theory, just in case A belongs to a kind K that admits of defect, and A would be ...