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date: 20 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The bulk of this chapter addresses the question: what is the proper semantics for deontic modal expressions in English? We consider a representative sample of recent challenges to a Kratzer-style formal semantics for modal expressions, as well as the rival views—Fabrizio Cariani’s contrastivism, John MacFarlane’s relativism, and Mark Schroeder’s ambiguity theory—those challenges are thought to motivate. We argue that the challenges can be met and that the rival views face challenges of their own. Our overall conclusion is that a Kratzer-style semantics remains the one to beat. With this assumption in place, we turn to the question: what is the connection between true deontic modal statements and normative reasons? We argue that acceptance of Kratzer’s semantics for deontic modals can, in many cases, leave open for substantive normative theorizing the question of whether an agent has a normative reason to comply with what she ought to do.

Keywords: contextualism, contrastivism, deontic modals, Kratzer, ought, reasons, relativism

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