Philosophical Studies

, Volume 143, Issue 3, pp 315–340 | Cite as

Oughts and ends

  • Stephen Finlay


This paper advances a reductive semantics for ‘ought’ and a naturalistic theory of normativity. It gives a unified analysis of predictive, instrumental, and categorical uses of ‘ought’: the predictive ‘ought’ is basic, and is interpreted in terms of probability. Instrumental ‘oughts’ are analyzed as predictive ‘oughts’ occurring under an ‘in order that’ modifer (the end-relational theory). The theory is then extended to categorical uses of ‘ought’: it is argued that they are special rhetorical uses of the instrumental ‘ought’. Plausible conversational principles explain how this end-relational ‘ought’ can perform the expressive functions of the moral ‘ought’. The notion of an ‘ought-simpliciter’ is also discussed.


Ought Normativity End-relational theory Semantics and pragmatics Hypothetical imperative Categorical imperative Probability Reductive naturalism Deontic modals 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PhilosophyUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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