Re: [sl4] normative language is rational

From: Johnicholas Hines (
Date: Fri Feb 13 2009 - 14:57:43 MST

On Fri, Feb 13, 2009 at 3:50 PM, Charles Hixson
<> wrote:
> Yes, it was intended to answer a question.

You seem to have read this sentence: "What do we mean by "should"?"
and attempted to answer it. I apologize for confusing you with my bad
writing, but I intended the question to be rhetorical. My intent was
to argue that the precise semantics of "should", "ought", "duty",
"obligation", "morality", "ethics" are NOT important.

> Should is to shall as will is to would as ought is to owe as might is to may. Duty and morality are separate concepts from these.

In a conversation about a proposed action (murder for the sake of
cannibalism, for example), all of these are roughly similar:

You should not kill and eat people because (justification).
You ought not to kill and eat people because (justification).
You have a duty to avoid killing and eating people because (justification).
It is immoral to kill and eat people because (justification).
It is unethical to to kill and eat people because (justification).

Splitting hairs about the subtly different historical and linguistic
connotations of these options is a red herring. We do have commonsense
understandings of these words, and can use them to attempt to persuade
one another to action. I was arguing against the tendency on this list
speak only in descriptions, like this:

(description of a dystopian future containing cannibalism).

We are building the future now. Futurists, in addition to trying to
predict the future, should advocate as clearly as possible the actions
that they believe would build a good future.


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