Wednesday, February 09, 2011

whoring around again

Instead of concentrating on my own blog, I've been unfaithful again and have left a few comments over at Malcolm's blog as he dives once more into the fascinating and frustrating question of an objective basis for morality. Malcolm's posts are here and here.

My own fuzzy suspicion is that the old formulation, most familiarly associated with David Hume, that "one cannot logically derive ought from is" is a bad approach to the problem. I think we need to take imperatives as a given because we see teleonomic behavior in living beings. From there, it should be obvious that oughts are actually a subset of ises. However, Bob Koepp, in one of his comments to Malcolm's posts, notes that "We need to be careful, though, not to conflate evaluations with values. There’s no question that we make evaluations — it’s a fact that we make them. But that’s not what it means for values to be a species of fact." I gather, then, that Bob would disagree that, in an onto-axiological Venn diagram, "ought" would be the smaller circle inside "is."

I may need to break out my old copy of Jacques Monod's Chance and Necessity (orig. Le hasard et la nécessité), which may be somewhat relevant to this discussion.


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