Conflicting reasons, unconflicting ‘ought’s

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8 Scopus citations


One of the popular albeit controversial ideas in the last century of moral philosophy is that what we ought to do is explained by our reasons. And one of the central features of reasons that accounts for their popularity among normative theorists is that they can conflict. But I argue that the fact that reasons conflict actually also poses two closely related problems for this popular idea in moral philosophy. The first problem is a generalization of a problem in deontic logic concerning the existence of conflicting obligations. The second problem arises from a tension between the fact that reasons can conflict and a model of how reasons explain ‘ought’s that has been widely accepted. Having presented each of these problems, I develop a unified solution to them that is informed by results in both ethics and deontic logic. An important implication of this solution is that we must distinguish between derivative and nonderivative reasons and revise our conception how it is that reasons explain ‘ought’s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)629-663
Number of pages35
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Deontic logic
  • Normative conflicts
  • Obligations
  • Reasons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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