Options must be internal (but don’t blame me if I don’t always do what I ought) - Toby Solomon

Options must be internal (but don’t blame me if I don’t always do what I ought) - Toby Solomon
Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash

Speaker:  Toby Solomon

Abstract: Many people believe that ought implies can. However, when the ``ought’’ in question is the ``ought’’ of ``rationally ought’’ there is a tension between this thesis and another—that the demands of rationality should be first-person accessible. Or, in other words, that what an agent rationally ought to do depends only on how the agent views things to be and not on how the world, unbeknownst to them, happens to be. Unfortunately, as I will show, this tension cannot be avoided—uncertainty about whether we can actually perform our options is unavoidable (contra Hedden, "Options and the subjective ought", Phil. Stud., 2012). Koon has argued that we should resolve this tension in favour of ought-implies-can ("Options must be external", Phil. Stud., 2020). Here I will argue that, on the contrary, we must resolve it in favour of first-person-accessibility—at least when ``rationally ought’’ is intended to play an action guiding role. Things are somewhat more complicated when it comes to the roles that ``rationally ought’’ might play in prediction and ascribing responsibility. I will argue that to capture all the uses we want to put rational-oughts to we will need a whole spectrum of them, varying in which inputs to a decision they take to be objective or subjective. What you ought rationally do in the action guiding sense can come apart from what you rationally ought to have done in the responsibility sense—you can't always be blamed for failing to do what you ought.

Please note that these seminars are open to the public and in person only.

Date & time

Thu 24 Aug 2023, 2:00pm to 4:00pm


RSSS Building, Auditorium 146 Ellery Crescent, Acton


Toby Solomon


Sean Donahue


Updated:  5 September 2023/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications