Ownership that matters. On the meaning of practical ‘ought’ sentences | Joanna Klimczyk

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We have been taught to take for granted the view that the discourse-relevant sense of a linguistic expression (i.e. the sense that we easily assign to it and which guides our uses of that expression) is given by the lexicon. The word “house” means “a building for people to live in” and the word “home” means the same as “house” plus many more nuanced things like: a person’s own house, a family house, or a place where something happens. The words “house” and “home” mean what they do because this is what the dictionary tells us, and we use these words accordingly. This book challenges the popular assumption that lexical sense of normative expressions like the expression ‘ought to do’ – whose meaning is the main focus of this book – is like the meaning of “house” or “home”: the one that matters in ordinary communicative exchanges. The author arguesthat the practical and discourse-salient meaning of ‘ought to do’ is substantive, namely grounded in some pre-theoretical views regarding the nature of practicality expressible by sentences of the general from ‘A ought to phi”.

The book by Joanna Klimczyk belongs to the field of metaethics and contains an outline of the theory of normativity. Klimczyk’s aim is to examine the conditions of meaningfulness/truthfulness of sentences with operator ‘ought’, which translates into the validity of norms expressed by these sentences. Klimczyk engages in a discussion with the most influential contemporary theories, in particular with the most influential contemporary theories, in particular with the view of philosopher John Broome. Methodologically, the book belongs to analytic philosophy and – in a manner typical of this tradition – it seeks an optimal conceptual and logical model that would allow for the interpretation of all interesting types of recognition or non-recognition of norms. […] I believe that this book is an original and bold work that preserves the best models of an analytic philosophical discussion.

Robert Piłat (review)

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