[ExI] About bullet-swallowing

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Thu May 22 23:50:20 UTC 2008

At 02:11 PM 5/22/2008 -0500, I wrote:

> >You can't get an ought from an is, and if you try, it
> >makes you look like a crackpot.
>Well, you can, if your "ought" is prudential.

A philosopher friend not on this list comments:

And Hume never claimed you can't get an "ought" from an "is". What he 
claimed was rather more subtle - you can't get an "ought" without 
something like a desire involved, and he complained that you can't 
get an "ought" from an "is" without some kind of explanation of how 
you did it - which he thought that moralists and philosophers often did.

Clearly, he thought that there's no way to derive oughts from, as it 
were, neutral is's about how the world, well, is - with no reference 
to desires (including fears, hopes, goals, etc) - and this seems to 
be right.... Nor do I see that he'd have had a problem with "We all 
(or overwhelmingly most of us) desire to run our society in such a 
way that people are happy (or at least suffering is reduced); if we 
participated in a social practice of valuing such and such 
dispositions of character, considering them to be virtues, praising 
them in others, etc., our society will operate so as to make people 
happy (etc); so, we ought to participate in a social practice of 
valuing such and such dispositions of character, etc." Indeed, his 
developed moral theory seems to be along these lines. This means that 
we have reasons to think about what we really desire and to 
investigate what social practices actually will satisfy those desires.

Damien Broderick 

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