Ewing's Problem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two plausible claims seem to be inconsistent with each other. One is the idea that if one reasonably believes that one ought to fi, then indeed, on pain of acting irrationally, one ought to fi. The other is the view that we are fallible with respect to our beliefs about what we ought to do. Ewing’s Problem is how to react to this apparent inconsistency. I reject two easy ways out. One is Ewing’s own solution to his problem, which is to introduce two different notions of ought. The other is the view that Ewing’s Problem rests on a simple confusion regarding the scope of the ought-operator. Then, I discuss two hard ways out, which I label objectivism and subjectivism, and for which G.E. Moore and Bishop Butler are introduced as historical witnesses. These are hard ways out because both of these views have strong counterintuitive consequences. After explaining why Ewing’s Problem is so difficult, I show that there is conceptual room in-between Moore and Butler, but I remain sceptical whether Ewing’s Problem is solvable within a realist framework of normative facts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-65
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Journal of Analytic Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2007


  • rationality
  • normativity
  • fallibility
  • practical reasons
  • subjectivism
  • objectivism

Cite this