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On What MattersVolume Two$
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Derek Parfit

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199572816

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199572816.001.0001

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Normative Truths

Normative Truths

(p.426) 30 Normative Truths
On What Matters

Samuel Scheffler

Oxford University Press

This chapter looks in detail at normative truths. It first considers disagreements; when we disagree with other people, we cannot rationally keep our beliefs unless we can justifiably assume that there is some asymmetry between us and these other people, making us more likely to be right. In Plato's Republic, Socrates asks: How should we live? Socrates is asking which kind of life is intrinsically best, by being the life that we have most reason to want to live. Bernard Williams denies that some ways of living could be, in this sense, intrinsically better than others. Rather than asking Socrates's question, Williams claims that we should ask ‘What do I basically want?’ When Williams makes claims about reasons, these claims are about what might motivate us. That is why he rejects the view that some lives are intrinsically better than others. Since Williams uses the phrase ‘a reason’ in a motivational sense, and he assumes that normativity involves reasons, his normative claims are all psychological claims, which are at most weakly normative.

Keywords:   normative truths, disagreements, Socrates, life, Bernard Williams, reasons, normativity, normative claims

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