Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 159–174 | Cite as

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



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 



I would like to thank Vuko Andric, Christian Nimtz, Marc Staudacher, an anonymous referee for this journal and the participants of the Graduate Philosophy Conference on Normativity 2008 in Amsterdam for helpful comments, valuable suggestions and stimulating discussions.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für PhilosophieUniversität Erlangen-NürnbergErlangenGermany

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