The Modes of Is and Ought and the Modally Indifferent Substrate

Hans Kelsen

in General Theory of Norms

Published in print March 1991 | ISBN: 9780198252177
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191681363 | DOI:
The Modes of Is and Ought and the Modally Indifferent Substrate

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Since Is and Ought are forms or modes which can assume any content whatsoever, the same content can appear sometimes as existing and sometimes as obligatory. In the sentence ‘A pays his gambling debts’, ‘paying-gambling-debts’ appears as existing, and in the sentence ‘A ought to pay his gambling debts’ it appears as obligatory. The common expression ‘Something ought to be’ is misleading. It creates the impression that Ought involves an Is. This impression can be avoided by saying ‘Something is obligatory.’ People say ‘An Ought aims at an Is.’ But that is also misleading. It is not the Ought which ‘aims at’ an Is, i.e. which has a certain intention. It is the person commanding that another is to behave in a certain way who, with his command, ‘aims at’ the Is of this behaviour.

Keywords: content; modes; Is; Ought; substrate; behaviour

Chapter.  2514 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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