Defeasible Commitment and Prima Facie Obligation

  • Fred Feldman
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series in Philosophy book series (PSSP, volume 35)


The iffy oughts of ordinary language are a logically heterogeneous group. As we have seen, a given sentence with ‘if’ and ‘ought’ may express any of several different sorts of proposition. As I see it, this fact is responsible for one of the most serious defects in the literature concerning iffy oughts. We frequently find cases in which one writer, focussing on one sort of iffy ought, proposes an analysis. He claims to have given an account of “conditional obligation”. A critic, appealing to examples of another sort of iffy ought, claims thereby to have shown the analysis defective. Obviously, however, the criticism misfires, since the two writers are talking about different classes of sentences.


Prima Facie Ordinary Language Injured Person Probabilistic Requirement Epistemic Probability 
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Notes to Chapter 6

  1. 1.
    W. D. Ross, The Right and the Good (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1930), p. 21.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ross, op. cit., pp. 41–42.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See above, Chapter 4, Section 2.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    An extremely insightful discussion of subjunctive conditionals and conditional obligation can be found in Judith W. DeCew, ‘Conditional Obligation and Counterfactuals,’ The Journal of Philosophical Logic 10 (1981), 55–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 8.
    R. M. Chisholm, ‘The Ethics of Requirement,’ American Philosophical Quarterly I (1964), 147–153.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Op. cit., p. 147.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
  8. 11.
  9. 12.
  10. 13.
    Op. cit., p. 149.1 have taken the liberty of shifting the position of a quantifier.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    Op. cit., p. 150.1 have taken the liberty of changing a ‘q’ to a ‘p’.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Op. cit., p. 150.Google Scholar
  13. 17a.
    Op. cit., p. 148Google Scholar
  14. 17b.
    R. M. Chisholm, ‘The Ethics of Requirement,’ American Philosophical Quarterly I (1964) pp. 150–151.Google Scholar
  15. 19.
    Chisholm, op. cit., p. 150.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fred Feldman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Massachusetts at AmherstUSA

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