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From ought +‎ -ness.


oughtness (plural oughtnesses)

  1. (chiefly philosophy) In ethics, the quality which makes an action dutiful or morally obligatory.[1]
    • 1886, William Mitchell, "Moral Obligation," Mind, vol. 11, no. 41, p. 40:
      Every attempt to derive oughtness from rightness must, as we have shown, either end in an illogical system or destroy the possiblity of a separate science of Ethics at all.
    • 1958, Archie J. Bahm, "Aesthetic Experience and Moral Experience," The Journal of Philosophy, vol. 55, no. 20, p. 840:
      Oughtness, may I suggest, consists in the power which a greater good has over a lesser good in compelling our choices.
    • 2002, Roberta L. Coles, "Manifest Destiny Adapted for 1990s' War Discourse," Sociology of Religion, vol. 63, no. 4, p.415:
      Combining the reality of politics with a sense of "oughtness" creates a sense of duty to the collective.
  2. (rare) The state or characteristic of something's being as it ought to be; rightness.[2]
  3. (rare) The obligatoriness of future actions or future states of affairs which are morally worthy of being produced through human effort.
    • 1964 Dec. 10, Martin Luther King, Jr., "Acceptance Speech for the Nobel Peace Prize":
      I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him.


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd ed. (2004)
  2. ^ oughtness in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913