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Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics Volume 8$
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Mark C. Timmons

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198828310

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198828310.001.0001

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Needing and Necessity

Needing and Necessity

(p.170) 8 Needing and Necessity
Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics Volume 8

Guy Fletcher

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines claims about needs (including claims such as ‘Saskia needs medicine’, ‘Fergus needs water’). It shows how recent work on modal language—specifically work on ‘ought’ and ‘must’—can be applied to needs claims, yielding an improved ability to interpret and assess the full range of needs claims. This is the positive part. The chapter then uses this improved understanding of needs claims to assess various positions to the effect that needs are fundamentally, or distinctively, significant for moral thought and moral theorizing. The chapter argues that a proper understanding of claims about needs in fact undermines the idea that needs have such a special significance. This is the negative part. The chapter also discusses different proposals for understanding claims about needs as claims about harm and well-being.

Keywords:   needs, necessity, modal terms, ought, must, moral philosophy, harm, well-being

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