Conflicting reasons, unconflicting ‘ought’s

Gopal Shyam NAIR

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


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
Pages (from-to)629-663
Number of pages35
JournalPhilosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


  • Deontic logic
  • Normative conflicts
  • Obligations
  • Reasons


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