What moral judgement is involved in the claim, less common than it once was but still heard, that 'S/he is no better than s/he ought to be' ? This is a conceptual question, not one about English usage. The claim does not appear to reflect any specific ethical theory - Platonic, Aristotelian, Utilitarian, Intuitionist or other. Nor on the surface does it make sense - the judgement, whatever it may mean, is critical : yet why should one be better than one ought to be ? If irony is at work, what is the relevant opposite meaning that the judgement carries ?

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    Isn't this just a reference to meeting minimal expectations only with a not so veiled sense of one's own superiority, "“no better than she ought to be, considering her status”. The assumption being that working class people had lower moral standards than middle or upper class people", according to What does no better than she ought to be mean? Arrogance and self-righteousness aside, this simply seems to refer to some hierarchy of oughts, which most moral positions accommodate. – Conifold Jun 21 '18 at 17:56
  • @Conifold. Thank you, I hadn't thought of that rider - 'considering her status'. It sounds right. I'll leave the question open just in case there are possibilities, maybe extra angles that complement or supplement yours. Best - GT – Geoffrey Thomas Jun 21 '18 at 18:44
  • While it could refer to social class (different people are taught different morals as they grow up, and morality is learned not inborn), I see it as an extreme example of physical and mental limits: non-human animals and people with mental illness may not have the mental capacity for morality, so you really can't blame them for what we consider moral failings. – barrycarter Jun 25 '18 at 4:10
  • @barrycarter. That's one line of approach, certainly, and it hadn't occurred to me. I appreciate. – Geoffrey Thomas Jun 25 '18 at 6:24
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    I've always taken it to mean the subject shows no inclination towards self improvement. It is critical on the basis of the predisposition: "one ought to better oneself" – christo183 Sep 6 '18 at 9:31

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