What Ought to be

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


Sometimes, instead of saying that a certain person ought to do a certain thing, we may say that a certain state of affairs ought to be, or ought to occur. For example, someone who is annoyed by loud motorcycles might say that there ought to be a law against such things. Someone who thinks government is getting corrupt might say that there should be more honesty in government. Someone who feels that the present distribution of wealth is unjust might say that there ought to be a more equal distribution of wealth in the world. Each of these could very well be a statement of the ought-to-be.


Moral Obligation Good World Causal Determinism Severe Thunderstorm Innocent Victim 
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Notes to Chapter 8

  1. 2a.
    This approach is based on things said by Jaakko Hintikka in ‘Some Main Problems of Deontic Logic,’ in Deontic Logic: Introductory and Systematic Readings ed. by Risto Hilpinen (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1970), pp. 59–104.Google Scholar
  2. 2b.
    Hintikka’s approach is criticized in R. L. Purtill, ‘Deontically Perfect Worlds and Prima Facie Obligations,’ Philosophy 3 (1973), 429–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 5.
    David Lewis, Counterfactuals (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973), Chapter 5.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Alan McMichael, ‘Too Much of a Good Thing: A Problem in Deontic Logic,’ Analysis 38 (1978), 83–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 7.
    Lewis replied to McMichael’s criticism in ‘Reply to McMichael,’ Analysis 38 (1978), 85–86.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    An extremely interesting discussion can be found in Terence Horgan’s ‘“Could”, Possible Worlds, and Moral Responsibility,’ The Southern Journal of Philosophy XVII (1979), 345–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 12a.
    For a good discussion of this temptation, see Terence Horgan, ‘Counterfactuals and Newcomb’s Problem,’ The Journal of Philosophy LXXVIII (1981), 331–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 12.
    See also David Lewis, ‘Counterfactual Dependence and Time’s Arrow,’ Noûs XIII (1979), 455–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 14.
    Roderick M. Chisholm, ‘The Ethics of Requirement,’ American Philosophical Quarterly I (1964), 147–153.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    Roderick M. Chisholm, ‘The Ethics of Requirement,’ American Philosophical Quarterly I (1964), Ibid., 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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