‘Ought’ and ‘Right’

R. M. Hare

in The Language of Morals

Published in print March 1963 | ISBN: 9780198810773
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597619 | DOI:
‘Ought’ and ‘Right’

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Hare argues that, though some philosophers have drawn a rigid distinction between ‘good’ and ‘right’ or ‘ought’, these words are logically related. Thus, ‘right’ or ‘ought’ is equally supervenient on non‐evaluative properties but not entailed by any non‐evaluative statements, and have descriptive as well as evaluative meaning—the latter arising from their use for prescription. Like in the case of ‘good’, ‘ought’‐judgements do not, however, express a singular imperative (‘press this button’), but teach or decide upon a universal principle how to act in particular circumstances. The difference between hypothetical and categorical imperatives thus lies not in the meaning of ‘ought’ but merely in the sets of principles referred to.

Keywords: categorical imperative; descriptive meaning; evaluative meaning; good; hypothetical imperative; ought; prescription; right; supervenience

Chapter.  4392 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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