COGNITIVE SCIENCE

“Ought” exceeds “can” ahead of time

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Science  01 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6354, pp. 883-884
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6354.883-f

In philosophy, as in economics, normative statements refer to judgments or beliefs about how things should be or what is right or desirable, in contrast to positive statements that refer to factual or testable assertions. One word commonly used in normative statements is “ought.” Turri explores experimentally how the meaning of “ought” changes with context. Using a scenario in which delivery of a package before a specific time has been promised, he finds that “ought” is consistently interpreted as a moral responsibility to fulfill that promise. “Ought” also conveys a sense of encouragement when the deliverer is able to act and the delivery time has not yet arrived, whereas after that point, “ought” changes to imply shame at an unmet responsibility.

Cognition 168, 267 (2017).

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