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"Philosophy Bro: Is-Ought Problem". - About James H. Collier

"Philosophy Bro: Is-Ought Problem". - About James H. Collier

"Philosophy Bro: Is-Ought Problem". - About James H.

Philosophy Bro: Mailbag Monday: Is-Ought Problem http://www.philosophybro.com/2012/01/mailbag-monday-is-ou... Share 11 More Next Blog» Create Blog Sign In Philosophy is hard - I read and summarize, so you don't have to, man. Back from hiatus! New content Mondays and Thursdays. Home Recommendations FAQs Support Philosophy Bro The Full List THE TOP FIVE: Plato's "The Allegory of the Cave": A Summary Nietzsche's "Thus Spoke Zarathustra": A Summary Hobbes' "Leviathan, Books I and II": A Summary Camus' "The Myth of Sisyphus": A Summary Martin Heidegger's "Being and Time": A Summary @PHILOBRO ON TWITTER MONDAY, JANUARY 9, 2012 Mailbag Monday: Is-Ought Problem Mailbag Monday: A weekly segment that covers readers' questions and concerns about all things Philosophy, Bro, and Philosophy Bro that don't quite fit anywhere else. Send your questions to philosophybro@gmail.com with 'Mailbag Monday' in the subject line. -- Alex writes, will you explain the is-ought problem and its implications? Thanks, bro. Aw yeah, the is-ought problem. Shit's classic, bro, goes back to Hume, and it goes something like this: Sometimes, when I'm talking ethics with my bros, they describe the way the world is. They're like, "That chair is over there. The bar closes at 4AM. The sky is blue." and I'm like, "Yup. Yup." How could I disagree? These are obviously true things. But then suddenly they're like, "Therefore, we should go on a roadtrip tomorrow." And I'm like, "woooooooooah!" How the fuck did they get from how things are, to how things should be? Those aren't the same at all. If I asked, "Where should we go?" and you told me where we already are, that wouldn't answer my fucking question. SHARE BUTTONS 11 Tweet Grab the RSS feed ABOUT ME StumbleUpon 634 Philosophy Bro on Facebook Like 7,874 Just a bro who likes philosophy. -- Maybe you've got a big paper coming up, and you haven't done the reading. Maybe there's this guy you've heard about, but you don't have the time to wade through the text yourself. Whatever, bro, I don't judge. Just e-mail your requests to philosophybro@gmail.com. LIJIT AD WIJIT Let's say my bro Ice and I are drinking. Ice is about to do some stupid drunken shit (as he's wont to do) and I say the following: "You are so drunk that you could die if you tried that." That's an is-statement. It just describes something about Ice and the thing he's about to do. Maybe you're thinking he should not do this fucking thing. But why not? "Because he'll die." So what? "Well, you shouldn't do stuff that will kill you." AHA! See, that's not an is-statement. It's an ought-statement, which describes how Ice should proceed. Before we could say that Ice shouldn't do this stupid fucking thing, we needed to say he shouldn't do stupid fucking things in general. People typically accept that statement, and in fact, so many people accept that statement that it seems obvious, and you might miss that it's hiding in there. You might just gloss right over it. Sometimes, though, the hidden ought isn't so widely accepted. Next morning, Ice and I are lying around on couches, nursing hangovers, and we have this conversation: PB: "Dude, I am so hungover." (Is-statement) Ice: "uuuuuugh." PB: "I seriously feel like I'm going to throw up." (Is-statement) Ice: "nnnnn..." PB: "Also, I spent all the cash I had last night." (Is-statement) Ice: "Shhh..." PB: "Dude, we ought to never get that drunk again." (Ought-statement) Ice: "...Wait, what?" How did I get from those first three things to that last one? I've only described my hangover. That's all I've done. No matter how fucking miserable my hangover is, it doesn't support my conclusion that I should never drink that much again; maybe I love being hungover. (I don't.) But I accept something like the following premise, the way-too-drunk premise: "You should never get so drunk that you spend all your cash and end up super hungover the next day." BOOM. Another ought-statement. Ice is confused because he loves getting that drunk, and is willing to put up with the hangover and relative poverty. He does not accept the way-too-drunk premise, so we disagree on how we ought to act, even though we totally agree on how things are right now. The is-ought problem arises because of a particular property of logic called conservation, which (roughly) says that whatever your conclusion is, it has to be in your premises in some form or another. It doesn't have to be obvious - in fact, often it isn't - but it is, in some form, lurking down there. (This is a really rough gloss on conservation, so bear with me here.) It's a feature that makes logic really fucking great - it tells us exactly what is and isn't supported by our premises. We want conservation in logic. Conservation is our friend. When someone objects, "Wait, your conclusion isn't supported by your premises!" she is actually objecting that I've snuck something into my conclusion that isn't anywhere in my premises, which is a no-no. So if you start with only descriptions of how things are right now, then you can't decide anything about the way things should be. You need oughts in your premises to get them in your conclusions. Occasionally, bros invoke the is-ought problem to argue that there is no morality at all or some similar such claim. Those bros are fucking doing it wrong. It turns out that ethical theories just are attempts to provide ways to move from is to ought. For example, utilitarianism says, at bottom, that we ought to act such that LABELS aesthetics (1) analytic philosophy (5) Ancient Philosophy (7) animal rights (1) Announcements (3) applied ethics (1) Aquinas (1) Aristotle (2) Berkeley (1) Bertrand Russell (1) Contemporary Philosophy (5) Continental Philosophy (4) critical theory (1) David Hume (5) David Lewis (1) Deontology (2) Dialetheism (1) Double Effect (1) empiricism (2) Epicurianism (1) Epicurus (1) epistemology (5) Ethics (11) existentialism (1) Feminism (1) Foucault (1) freedom (1) Graham Priest (1) Hegel (1) Higgs Boson (1) idealism (3) Incompleteness (1) Jean-Paul Sartre (1) John Locke (2) John Rawls (1) 1 of 6 1/16/13 7:27 PM

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