Skepticism about ought simpliciter

Document Type

Conference paper

Source Publication

Annual Chapel Hill Metaethics Workshop

Publication Date



The University of North Carolina


What ought I to do? A lot of things, and when I look at it closely, too many things. Too many things, because there are too many oughts. Morally I ought to give to charity, prudentially I ought to invest. Epistemic reasons may demand that I begin to doubt my friend’s innocence, even if loyalty forbids it. Different normative standards, or different kinds of values, point crosspurposes. So in some cases it is impossible to satisfy all of these oughts. A natural thought in response to this kind of situation is to ask ‘what ought I really to do?’ or ‘what ought I to do simpliciter?’ But this natural thought, I will argue, is incoherent: there is no coherent notion of an ought simpliciter, an ought full stop, an all-things-considered ought, or what Philippa Foot called “the free and unsubscripted” sense of ought (1972/1977: 169).

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Recommended Citation

Baker, D. (2016, September). Skepticism about ought simpliciter. Paper presented at the Annual Chapel Hill Metaethics Workshop, Chapel Hill.