Monday, December 7, 2009

References to Hume's Ought

My youngest memory of the phenomenon:

"Our form of government and efforts at "emancipation" cannot change the fundamental fact of their existence (there is no way to get to "ought".)"

I often see similar constructions, all error. My apologies, but Hume never proved his is-ought distinction, he simply pointed out many instances of people failing to derive is from ought.

Additionally, it turns out I have a counter-proof.

Assume something has value. Intrinsically, avoiding or preventing this thing results in a less valuable world.

Actually that's a false start, which I'm leaving in to help steer you into the right frame of mind.

Imagine the world has no intrinsic value - that the world 'value' is actually meaningless. (Nihilism is true.)

Imagine the world does in fact have some contingent quantity of value in it - positive or negative.

We must prefer the latter world. The former world renders even our preferences meaningless; it cannot be preferred (or preferred against). In other words, this is another species of Cogito: by our having values, the world is imbued has value...even if our values somehow turn out to be inconsistent.

'Ought' is defined thusly; it is better to do what we ought to do, than not. The world we ought to work toward is more valuable than the world we ought not to.

The problem is not that 'oughts' may not be refined from 'is,' but only in defining 'value' and working out what it picks out.

Now I'm going to perform a check. Famous, prestigious philosopher, John Searle also tackles the is-ought problem. Can he (by proxy) refute my analysis?

Searle says that institutions, which require rules to exist at all, bind the participants by the rules. (Elaborated here, as Searle is not part of the internet generation and hasn't spoken for himself online.)

"For example, when it is my turn to bat I am obligated to step up to the plate." Or, you could fail to continue to play baseball by violating this rule. This is the twofold problem with Searle's analysis. Yes, to perpetuate the baseball game, one is required to adhere to the rules of baseball, but at no point is one obligated, by this analysis, to perpetuate baseball.

In one situation, baseball continues - the bat is swung, the ball is hit or not. In the other, baseball ceases, at least momentarily, perhaps people are angry, or confused. So what? Can we really say, objectively, that one is better than the other? (Hint: maybe.) Let's say you choose not to step up to the plate, for no reason other than that you just realized there's no ought here, and people are angry. Even on pure intuition, is that really so bad? Again: so what?

There will be consequences to each action, and again, so what? Say they find your behaviour so contrary you're off the team, despite it being a casual league. It's not important; baseball is not something anyone can prove you ought to do, nor is it necessary to define pissing people off as 'wrong' to persuade an agent to avoid doing it.

I will ignore the second problem - that from this account, there is no direct link between institutional rules and the definition of 'ought.' Even without this, the oughtness of baseball must be inherited from the more fundamental level, which Searle attempted to circumvent.

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