Talk:Is–ought problem

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Some examples might be useful? Morwen 19:24, 16 Nov 2003 (UTC)


I don't see how a problem can "state" something. "State" is the wrong word. Nor do I see any problem here, actually. It is just a matter of simple logic that the conclusion of a syllogism cannot contain a term that is not in the premisses. I am amazed at the distances travelled in some of the comments.  — Preceding unsigned comment added by Seadowns (talkcontribs) 00:12, 26 March 2017 (UTC) 

Seadowns (talk) 19:40, 26 March 2017 (UTC)

Dennett quote[edit]

I've removed that quote (twice now) which says:

"Many modern naturalistic philosophers see no impenetrable barrier in deriving "ought" from "is" believing an "ought" can derive from an "is" 

whenever we analyze goal-directed behavior, and a statement of the form "In order for A to achieve goal B, A ought to do C" exhibits no category error and may be factually verified or refuted. For example Daniel Dennett states [7]: From what can “ought” be derived?... etc."

Now, the reason for removing the quote is *not* because it is not about deriving ought from is, it IS about that and I'm not claiming anything to the contrary. However, the quote (nor the chapter or anything in the book 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea') does *not* anywhere give a means by which one might cross the 'barrier'. What Dennett says is that 'is' statements regarding human nature and human desires are a fundamentally *necessary* premise/s in deriving an ought - you will find nowhere in the book where he says that you can derive an ought from those 'is' statements alone, in fact he calls this "greedy reductionism". There is nothing in the quote, nor in the chapter, where Dennett says an ought can be derived from 'is' statements *alone*.

The other reason for removing the quote, at least as it appears here, is because it is NOT an example of "deriving ought from is when analysing goal-directed behavious". Saying that modern naturalistic philosophers derive ought from is in the form "In order for A to achieve goal B, A ought to do C", and then saying "for example, Danial Dennett says this..." is highly misleading. The simple and plain fact of the matter is that Dennett's quote and his arguments in Darwin's Dangerous Idea is NOT an example of deriving ought from is in the form stated. If the author of the article who originally added this wants to keep the quote in the criticisms section, they will have to do so in a seperate sentence/paragraph which accurately describes his claims regarding ought and is.

And on that topic, this ("a statement of the form "In order for A to achieve goal B, A ought to do C"") is in need of a reference. As it stands, there is no citation to any published work where anyone has tried to do so - and Dennett, as above, is NOT a reference for this. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:01, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

-- and to add just a little more, the following incredibly naive and oversimplified (and also stands in need of referencing): "For naturalists, simple ethical "oughts" such as monogamy and 'thou shalt not kill' follow naturally from human biological drives such as pair-bonding and avoiding unnecessary violence. The more complex ethical rules of society are derived for mutual benefit, and are amenable to an ethical methodology such as utilitarianism. The wider investigation of how social rules arise during group evolution belongs to the scientific field of sociobiology."

Not all naturalists say this, not all naturalists would agree... I wont even bother going into the many many possible ways in which a naturalist might disagree with the above quote. Whats more important, however, is that even those naturalists who *do* think our beliefs in ethical oughts are the result of sociobiological evolution (Wilson and Ruse for example), these philosophers do not say that 'oughts' follow naturally from human nature... this is the very thing they try to avoid (with a clear memory of social darwinism to remind them of the dangers in going down this path). Instead they say that our *beliefs* in 'oughts' follow from human nature and/or cultural evolution - thus they ignore the is/ought gap entirely because they never even attempt to 'cross' it. Again, this paragraph is misplaced... the 'naturalists' referred to in the quote above DO NOT DISAGREE with the is/ought barrier nor have they proposed a means around it, rather it is acceptance of that barrier which forms the very motivation for their ethical account -- Ed. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:14, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Above, (talk · contribs) is referring to his edit of 23 April 2008. --Dan Polansky (talk) 12:16, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

Hume's fork[edit]

Isn't "Hume's fork" the distinction between ideas which are (a priori, analytic, and necessary) and ideas which are (a posteriori, synthetic and contingent)?

The fork could be mentioned, but isn't the idea that ought-statements fall into neither of these categories? Evercat 19:28, 16 Nov 2003 (UTC)

I moved the fork stuff to a new section. Any comments? --Ryguasu 02:23, 8 Mar 2004 (UTC)

this is not an article about the objectivity of morality[edit]

Removing this, because this is much less about is-ought as it is about moral realism and its opponents:

Any ethical theorist who now wishes to give morality an objective grounding in objective features of the world is fighting an uphill battle.

--Ryguasu 01:34, 8 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Deriving an "is" from an "ought"[edit]

I'm wondering if philosophers have given any attention to the converse problem of whether an "is" can follow from an "ought", and whether or not this is equally interesting. --Ryguasu 02:23, 8 Mar 2004 (UTC)

It would be helpful if those asserting "simple ethical 'oughts' such as monogamy . . . follow naturally from biological drives" would take a course in cultural anthropology. They would find polygyny fairly common as well as examples of polyandry. The 'monogamy' example reeks of contemporary western ethnocentrism.

Cf.: "For naturalists, simple ethical "oughts" such as monogamy and 'thou shalt not kill' follow naturally from human biological drives such as pair-bonding and avoiding unnecessary violence."

So, it might be better written as: "For naturalists, simple comparisons of biological drives can result in a variety of cultural forms, such as mating resulting in monogamy, polygyny and polyandry. Which to choose? Well, that would be a difficult 'ought' to make unless one were an armchair philosopher without having taken a course in cultural anthropology." 01:23, 29 October 2007 (UTC) Joe Nalven / October 28, 2007

You guys should check out Alasdair MacIntyre's discussion of the Is/Ought relationship in After Virtue. If an "is" is referring to human nature, it actually does have an "ought" assumed in it already.

Well it is the very nature of ethics to be informed by a metaphysics. --De Nihilo 06:16, 3 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Fact-value distinction[edit]

Hi Mike, this article of yours seems to be nearly identical with Is-ought problem. Could you incorporate it into the other one and place a redirect? I will also place the appropriate merge templates. --Ozan Ayyüce 13:15, 9 August 2005 (UTC)

I don't know why you would want to say that the Fact-Value Distinction is less known, or should be collapsed into 'Is-ought', you got things backwards, really. This article is out on the Internet in many non-wiki encyclopededia, (just do a google search to see) so it has value and should remain as such. The article is directly related to Ruth Ann Putnam's articles with the same title. If people want to expand it- fine- but to merge it is to deprive the work of a useful article, that carries much more currency than just 'Is-ought'. --Mikerussell 16:53, 2005 August 9 (UTC)

I'd agree with the suggested merge: Perhaps an introductory section in the eventual article explaining how the two issues relate (I'd suggest that the is/ought problem is one expression of the fact/value distinction). Each of Hilary Putnam (who I think argues that there is no fact/value distinction), A.N. Prior (who suggests that some oughts do follow from is's: He is a farmer, therefore he ought to do what a farmer ought to do) and Alasdair MacIntyre (although simply a link to the article on teleogy might do) have written on the topic, and should be added somewhere in the discussion. Alex Gregory - 18th October 05

I think it would be helpful if this article, and the Fact-Value article, had links to one another. --saulkaiserman 16:20, 2006 February 22

On the contrary, the "is-ought" problem delivers a crushing blow to Evolutionary Ethics[edit]

I happen to think the two articles should remain distinct, because Hume's point is powerful in its own right. As far as Evolutionary Ethics goes, it hasn't got a chance. Philosophically, you ought to consider the other alternatives, and objective morality is definitely still in the running.

What an evolutionary ethicist would like to say, is that we get the idea that we "ought" not to murder, because organisms occasionally organize themselves into groups that are beneficial to each of the individuals in the group, and so its detrimental to the group's function to kill its members. That's true, but does that really help the case for Evolutionary Ethics?

It is important to keep the whole picture in view, specifically one needs to focus on what motivates the alliances to form in the first place. From a purely evolutionary point of view, organisms evolve alliances because in an alliance they have a more effective way to kill their prey or their enemy, and also to defend themselves. It's the strength in numbers principle at work. So assuming for the sake of argument that you can argue from descriptions of facts, or states of affairs, or evolutionary history to statements of what you "ought" to do, which moral principle does the above scenario lead to?

Does it lead to , "you ought not to murder members of your own group", which slowly turns into a universal to eventually become "you ought not to murder", where the "group" part is dropped. Or does it lead to "you ought to murder, but only if you do it with the help of a large group", which eventually is universalized through evolution to "you ought to murder" where the "help of a large group" part is dropped. As long as bits and pieces are being dropped along the way, i.e becoming universalized, reductionist/evolutionary explanations such as these can easily lead to either moral principle.

We happen to favor the evolutionary just-so-story that leads to the moral principle we happen to agree with, "you ought not to murder", but by the same logic it could just as easily lead to "you ought to murder".

Nothing in the facts themselves lead you to one prescriptive statement over the other. An evolutionary ethicist thinks he's being clever by bringing up this scenario, but what he's actually doing is focusing on the individuals in the group and not on the individuals who will be the victims of the groups combined strength. Basically what it comes down to is which part of the scenario you are focusing on, which in turn leads you to imagine that you've successfully described the origin of a moral sentiment. Not even close.

Since the same set of facts could conceivable be used to support two moral principles which are diametrically opposed to each other, it shows that sets of facts such as these cannot be used to derive moral statements, or "ought" statements. The "ought" doesn't come from the facts, but from the observer who reads the "ought" onto the facts. An "ought" doesn't appear until we introduce it. This argument underscores the fact that prescriptive statements cannot be derived from descriptive statements and that moral knowledge is not derived from biological/evolutionary facts.

Davidkovacs7 21:35, 24 September 2006 (UTC)
I think the argument is that an "ought" does follow from "is" in the context of goal-directed behavior. If the goal is different, then you can derive a different "ought" from it. A simple example is, "in order to open a jar of peanut butter, one ought to remove the lid." The goal is embedded within the statement itself, rather than presuming some universal derivation of "ought"-ness.
In the case of evolution, one might say "in order to survive as a species, one ought to act cooperatively." This is a perfectly reasonable derivation, that can be validated or invalidated based on the facts. If survival as a species isn't the goal, then obviously this argument is meaningless. On the other hand, if one has no interest in pleasing God, then perhaps the biblically derived morality is equally meaningless. It's not clear if "ought" has any real meaning outside of a contextual arrangement. (talk) 18:22, 29 August 2009 (UTC)

I'm not a philospher, but ...[edit]

Is there an argument to the effect that an "ought" can be reduced to an "is". That when we use the word "ought", we are describing a state of affairs that reduces down to the fact that we are social animals?

Oh yes, there are some arguments of that kind. See reductionism and reduction (philosophy). Or ethical non-naturalism. Or even descriptive and normative ethics. Searle and other also tried to derive ought from is. Velho 04:21, 22 August 2005 (UTC)

Actually, I think you could start by going the other way - derive the what "is" from the what "ought" to be. The morality ("what ought" to be) that a culture/population holds has a very severe effect on its state, on its "what is." For instance, you can argue, that the survival of the fittest-ness of a culture is a "what is" phenomenon. Let's assume that cultures that hold such statements as "thou ought not kill thy neighbour" dear, or "though ought not steal", or "though shalt(ought) give every member of thy culture the best opportunity to flourish and develop his talents, for thou shalt("is") benefit from it (ex.Faraday) might have a radically different chance in making it through the tomorrow than those that have to heavily expand energy on internal defense, and internal noncooperation. Alone we fall, together we stand - is a what "is" statement. Of course this what is sentence doesn't say that we should stand or we should fall, such things have no meaning in and of themselves, such things spring from internal preferences of the humans reading it. The "ought" stuff springs from deep within a human soul, and it's a result of millenia of distillation, of natural selection, stored as human nature.
- Darwin's ideas explains how we got here from a simple DNA molecule - through single cells through birds and deer that do sophisticated mating dances and territorial markups and social rules which are expressions of "ought"-ness - "thou ought not cross this scent mark", etc. Basically "time" is the creator of the "what ought to be" phenomenon, in the beginning there was a DNA-like molecule that happened to not copy itself and that was that, so what, but then there was another molecule that did, and that's just that, nothing inherently right or wrong about this phenomenon. The one that did copy itself ended up generating all this stuff we call life, and of course, in no point in time there is an intrinsic "ought"-ness of what's "right" or "wrong" - basically all lifeform individuals theoretically have been free to decide not to copy themselves, or kill themselves at any microsecond through the evolution tree and millions of years, and there were probably many instances too, but then that's what "was" or "is" at that moment in time, and fast forward in time, and what "is" today is only those lifeforms that never happened to decide to do so. Moreover you can argue that those lifeforms that have an internal "drive", or "ought"-ness developped, that hold such things as surviving is good, dying is bad, eating is good, being hungry is bad, having sex is good, being horny without release is bad, or more sophisticated ones - having fun, curiosity is good, being bored is bad - such lifeforms have a higher chance of "being" today, or "is"-ing, and since we're advanced in time from the beginning, you can find a larger abundance of ought-ing (random-dna-molecule-that-mutates)-consequence-lifeforms that "exist" today, than those that lack any internal "oughtness." That's all there is to it.
- Humans are on the top of the food chain because of cooperation. Cooperation is automatically a rule-making process, because when you cooperate, you automatically "expect" the other person to do certain things while you do your thing, and this "expectation" is an "ought" process. Of course nothing guarantees at any moment that the other person "will" follow up on his end of what he "ought" to do, and there is always a chance for cooperation breakdown where both sides lose, but in the end those group of people "are" today that did abide by some kind of "oughts" and rules. Hence what "is" is that "ought" springs from internal attitudes of lifeforms, and such "oughtness" developped from the what "is" as a consequence of of "time." As time progresses, you can say that it becomes more and more difficult for those that "are" to "freely" choose things that create a "not to be" effect, becaue the inner drives get more and more developed and limiting and impossible to overcome. Of course, even with all the evolution, there is such a thing as cell apoptosis, where a member of a group becomes an "is not", and what's evolving through natural selection is the group and not its individuals - the culture and not it's people, the organism and not its cells, so sometimes even suicide that's a nonsense from an individual point of view might be the most beneficial from the group point of view.
-Also, evolution is a "what is" phenomenon, and at any point in time it can do random mutation, that seem to go against the survival of the fittest principle - such as large tails for peacocks seem like an impediment when they have to run from predators, but peahens, the females, prefer them because that's how they "are", happened to mutate, it's better sex, it's a flaring up of sexual complexities, so the peacocks with the biggest survival impediments from predator evasion end up reproducing, so they are the ones that "are" today, even if the whole peafowl population would be more "fit" if they eliminated such extravagances. As you can see internal "oughts" can go in random directions, such as pleasure, and what's pleasurable may or may not be the most "fit" inner "ought", but it happens to form, it happens to "exist," during evolution. Over a long period of time you'd expect that peacock's have a less chance of still existing because of less ability to compete against predators, but that's not a fact laid in stone, things like this are random - for instance it might happen that, besides the peahens, other species, such as humans may find the large peacock tails pleasurable to look at, and then this way the survival of the peafowl species is enhanced, so escape from predators may not be the prime objective for selection if there happens to be a superlarge human population that messes with the whole natural selection thing and notices peacocks more than say a single celled special bacterium that's invisible, which, without humans in the picture might have a better mathematical probability of "being" a few billion years from now than peacocks would.
-By the way, according to the 2nd law of thermodynamics the entropy in natural processess tends to increase in time - this is a root of nonsymmetry, even though Newton's laws of motion are symmetric - basically those time-reversed video clips where the water jumps back into the glass that is becoming unbroken by the pieces jumping back toghether just don't happen, natural phenomena have a very set direction. In most normal natural process that happen entropy, disorder increases, and life is a naturally occurring counterentropic process, a naturally occuring swimming against the tide phenomenon. Essentially, life is able to create putting-the-broken-glass-back-together type events, at the expense of even more breaking-of-glass-type events somewhere else, at the expense of using energy in the surroundings to maintain the inner order, to keep fixing and patching up what would naturally break and rot away in no time. One defintion of life is thus a process with negentropy or syntropy, and I think that any system with such swimming against the general tide phenomena could develop sophisticated "ought's" as an expression and tendency to self-reinforce the existence. Therefore over time only those negentropy processes have the higher chance of remaining that have inner oughts developped. One could check in computer simulations such as Conway's Game of Life, but there is probably need for a certain threshhold of complexity required - it's hard to say that bacteria have morals, as opposed to say birds not violating each other's territorial songs, knowing they can, but have an inner drive, complex inner souls that tell them that they should not.
-This analysis of the effect of "oughts" is what "is" can be extended to religions. In a sense myriad of religions exist not because of what they say is inherently right, or true, but because of the effect they create, "is." Examples are inner peace, more cooperation, less internal energy expended on internal competition on things like "I'm better than you", "holier than thou", drives that evolution blessed us with as individuals, but religion replaces that with group-behavior - "it doesn't matter who of the two of us, you or me, is the greater, because we all know that God is the greatest, and we are all his children, therefore we are brothers and shouldn't act like enemies." That's a very powerful effect.
-As far as the "survival of the fittest" effect goes, we speak of genetic variety. Basically, as individuals compete, one may end up being the one and only, most "fit", and that's that, that's what is, but from the group point of view this behavior is far from optimal, and therefore from an individual point of view it's far from optimal too, when the individual's fitness is dependent on the fitness of the whole group. So the natural selection selects those groups as most fit that contain individuals that don't eliminate or outcompete each other, and possess "genetic resilience" against effects such as inbreeding and population bottleneck, and these concepts apply not only to lifeforms, but even things such as businesses. From a cultural point of view, only cultures that have individuals that don't completely compete each other out of existence are fitter, and then from a superculture point of view, multiculturalism, i.e. a superculture that has cultural diversity is also more fit. In this sense the extermination of native american tribal cultures because they were not christian cultures, or most forced religious conversion practices are what is phenomena, but they are something that reduce cultural variety and go against the "fitness" of the human superculture. Of course there is some balance in how far the toleration goes, because too aggressive individuals such as serial killers will be rounded up pretty quickly, because the damage they create is far greater than the slight benefit of having yet another form of variety they provide. Similar arguments could go for cultural members of a superculture, especially nontolerant, aggressive ones, that create far more damage than the benefit they provide from the supercultural point of view.
The problem of course is where you cut the limits of what ought to be, who do the morals apply to, who do I have promises to make to and live up to? Humans have been accused of specieism, for instance, that morals only apply to human beings. Cutting the limit too short, such as only my nation, my people, or even shorter, my family, or even shorter, me, is going in the negative direction from "together we stand, alone we fall" effect.
- Sparta for instance fell compared to Greece because of what they considered to be one of them, an internal member of the population - they basically ran out of Spartans (even the king invited other men, pretty much anyone to copulate with the queen, to help get her pregnant, and there was a massive drive to have every Spartan woman pregnant by almost anybody possible - while men, Spartan warriors, mostly phalanx, fell in wars, and due the nonacceptance of the slaves or other local population s Spartans, it had to go along bloodline, the population simply collapsed).
- On the other hand are we gonna extend our rules to monkeys, all animals? Consider them morally equal, deserving equal treatment? How about humans that are mentally retarded below a monkey's intelligence, why do they get equal and fair treatment? Will we expect a human to never kill and animal, even if the animal doesn't reciprocate? How about animals killing each other? Think of snakes, tigers, sharks, wolves - though I heard someone say you can turn almost any animal into a vegetarian, is that something desirable? What do you think we "ought" to do? Where are the limits of how far we can extend the boundaries of oughtness, or even how far is "right" to push ourselves and our inner drives and morality and impose it on others, other cultures, other animals? What does your inner morality tell you about how far you can push your inner morality? Expecting a tiger not to catch a deer? Isn't that just too much imposing of the human self, of the me, of what I think "ought" to be, onto something external that's got nothing to do with being a human being? Where is the correct limit? Human against human as in Sparta against Greece? All humans together, equally? All humans + some animals (pets have rights?), but the other animals excluded? Of course it's more complicated, it's not either-or, you can love a tree and eat the fruit, you can even love fish and eat them - life is funny, how complicated and nonunderstandable things can get. So, should we mess with peacocks and genetically modify them so they become more fit for the long run, do something in "their interest" out of love for them, and eliminate their large tail? Or should we make them even worse, where they can barely move without assistance under the weight of their tail, but their tail would be more beautiful and thus more pleasing to us. Says who? Why? Stuff like this is nonsense, because, though there are inner "oughts" that evolution blessed you with, there is no inherently right or wrong answer to such questions. I'm still disgusted when looking at genetically engineered cows that drag their huge huge tits on the ground, on the floor, and they can barely move, to me that seems like torture, but then, when I go to the store, and I see the price of the gallon milk drop 30%, I really like that part. Is there a way to keep cows happier, more natural and have the price of milk drop, at that same time? To be able to have your cake and eat it too? How about the case of salmons, that swim upstream to a spot where their offsprings will be safer, and have sex and die outright? What should we do with them, to help them? Maybe we could come up with a genetic fix to help out these poor fish, and make them live out a full, happy life, make them survive after sex, but would that be good? I don't like to see them die, because the phenomenon of dying to me is connected with something negative, suffering, in my inner ought system, and when other beings die, or especially when they suffer, I'm used to feeling some sort of anguish, and need to try to help, but it's hard to tell if the salmons are suffering when they are laying their eggs and shooting sperm on them, in the middle of the biggest(and only) orgy of their lives, that's automatically their swan song. So they seem to be something external that I should no apply or inner ought system upon. Also, mess with something you don't fully understand, and make salmons survive and return to the ocean to live out a full and happy life, and then you just eliminated the nitrogen fertilizer source that the nearby forrests depend on heavily, from the carcasses of dead salmon, you just messed with the whole ecosystem when you tinkered with an little bitty tiny part of it. Or eliminate the wolves from the Yellowstone National Park, that we have just recently reintroduced. There is this idea that all life is one, belongs to a single superorganism we call ecosystem just like the cells in a human body belong to one big system. You can hear this one-ness, this love for the whole in many tribal people deeply connected to nature - such as the indian chief saying The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to it and I even detect it when I see a cat loving to play in the grass outside instead of indoor, or when a fish in released into water, and it's hard to tell joy, but the fish look joyous, and playful. In this sense you are not disctinct at all from all the other lifeforms, or even from the inanimate object world around you, even from the whole universe, you are deeply involved with anything and everything that exists, so on the one hand your humanity, or existence, expands infinitely, to everything, because everything is one, there is nothing external to you, while on the other hand there are external things to you, you might find you "ought" to leave the external things around you alone, such as the salmons, peacocks, even human cultures existing deep within a jungle that have special ways of "being" even if it involves torturing their animals or killing each other - it's both your concern and not your concern at the same time, and there is inherent right or wrong about what you "ought" do in such situations, there is no inherent guidance, which is mindboggling and it sucks.
- Also, there is the phenomenon of cheating, within human context., if you "cheat", and the other person lives up to his end of the bargain without you ever living up to yours, in the end you benefit from it as long as you can keep up with such activity, and such "cheaters" are who "are" in the long run compared to the noncheaters, within a population. But when you compare such a population made up of internal cheaters to one that has no cheaters but cooperates more openly and sticks to the "ought" rules more, overall that population benefits. For instance you could argue that the US is heavily split between the rich exploiting the poor (Da Man trying to keep a brother down), and public education is slowly being eroded (eliminating potential Faraday's) in favor of only those who can afford it will get it even if they are dumb, thus Da Man and his kids are who "are" tomorrow, and that's that, that's what "is", but such population might be outcompeted by populations that do promote their Faradays to the best they can be, those that provide public education, such as China, that graduates a lot of engineers a year, and taps a larger pool of potentials that might benefit the overall population. But China is communist, and it's obvious that communism doesnt' work, because people only care about themselves, their very limited circle, about what they can call their own, they cut the limit very close, and that's something very sustainable according to Adam Smith. It's just simply impossible to expect selflessness for the greater good (and therefore self-good in a roundabout way), because the barrier to cheating is so thin, because of non-openness, or even just such needs as privacy, or such internal drives as jealousy, that evolution blessed us with. There is a balance in how far people are able to extend their groupness, how large they can make it - on the one hand there is reasoning that can tell you to make your group as wide as possible, but on the other hand there is being in the moment, action in the spur of the moment where one disregards the rules, the needs of the many and does something selfish and "cheats", there are the inner instincts that are not always logically consistent - survival instinct dictates the needs of the many, as bees and ants behave, as something very effective for group survival, except members of the group able to cheat mess this up, because only cheaters remain, but if a group made up of only cheaters develops a rule to abide by and not cheat it, they will collectively benefit. So there is this dynamic-feedback-oscillating behavior over where the limit should be - whether it's stable, converging, or constantly diverging and oscillating, I don't know. One thing is clear though, the openness of a society - such as being able to go onto UPS' website and see the very same thing UPS sees internally with a tracking number, opening your books, having nothing to hide, that's a tremendous accomplishment - enables the society to have less cheating, as opposed to behind closed doors meetings, secret societies - what do you have to hide from others? - such things are an aspect of the need to either respond to inner cheating instincts, or to defend from others members of the larger group in the name of security, against others' inner cheating instincts, of not following of the rules, of what "ought" to be.
As you see, there is no such thing of what "ought" to be, in and of itself, but the "ought" phenomenon is pretty much a consequence of what "is", or more exactly, what "has been", and "time" is the "invisible hand" generating such things. Theoretically, logically, one is always free, and ought's are never truly must's, no matter what, one should be aware of this fact, but there is this thing called human condition, that we all share, there are these inner outght's that just get stronger and more unsurpassable as time and evolution goes on, and being aware or accepting of one's inner ought's is being aware or accepting one's humanity, one's human condition, one's inner limits. One "ought" to be aware of both the utter theoretical freedom, and presence of inner drives, inner "oughts", inner unfreedom at the same time.

Sillybilly 07:36, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

Hume's Law[edit]

According to the article on Hume's Moral Philosophy at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the is/ought-problem is today commenly referred to as Hume's Law ( - PJ

Actually, the is-ought problem is the discussion of Hume's law. Velho 16:08, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

Yes, you are absolutely right. My point was just that perhaps the term "Hume's Law" should be mentioned in the article. PJ 00:02, 4 February 2006 (UTC)

Ayn Rand[edit]

Did she not say "Every is implies an ought." If so, it may have bearing here to flesh out her arguments. Srnec 04:51, 27 May 2006 (UTC)

From reading the Rand article, it seems that her argument was fairly practical but has problems: life exists and therefore functions according to its design. She extrapolated from that this: The fact that humans live forces them to making choices between life and death, and the former is the proper choice. Making the choice to live involves continually identifying oughts that are reasonable to each individual. Or, in other words, individuals use reason to live and irrationality to die. She rejects all forms of groupthink/altruism, arguing that each individual's oughts are perceptible to them via their reason and that groupthink coerces individuals to surrender their lives unfairly to enrich others'. I hope this is an accurate summary; I only read the article and haven't read anything else she wrote.
Some of the problems I see are: That life exists doesn't require choices to be made for any particular reason. This is the is-ought rebuttal. Her argument that: "You're alive so you should live to your potential" is practical, but also contains arbitrary judgements. For instance. Are we really alive? What is life? What is one's potential? How can individuals be intelligent enough on their own to make their judgements regarding reason the sole basis for their behavior? Her argument that the point of living is to live well doesn't seem to be based on anything, despite being a form of idealism, but I admit I'm not a well-read philosopher. It seems to me that her notion that individuals are the arbiters of everything is an anarchist position, one that ignores the reason why people form groups/societies — people get more out of life when they're in groups. The fact that professional specialization exists seems to refute the notion that each individual can be as close to omniscience as each other individual and therefore have the knowledge via reason necessary for all behavior. In other words, Rand's philosophy of the empowered individual seems to ignore the fact that societies are collectives and that people rely on the skills/knowledge available from the collective, not just their individual minds. I suppose I'm guilty of is-ought myself when I say that the existence of collectives suggests that collectives are the way to go (whether we have the choice or not) because people are unique and no one can be omniscient, but perhaps the entire is-ought debate is paradoxical because is and ought are inseparable?
In other words, human behavior is human behavior and ought is just an expression of is — what humans think is. Of course, that argument itself may be paradoxical, or just useless, as it doesn't separate rationality and irrationality. A true, but opaque understanding of the world is not necessarily helpful. Perhaps, like an onion, one must peel away the layers of understanding, going from the general to the specific? This is what I seem to be thinking about when I consider her argument that, because people are alive, they should choose to live their lives (to their satisfaction). It's practical to say that the fact that because a system exists (the biological operations of life), the system can't be ignored and the workings of that system matter. Rand takes us into the onion, where the is-ought issue is less relevant. On a practical level, people do have the choice between life and death (the degree of choice is debatable; some argue that people don't really have the choice — Psychology has said that people who commit suicide irrationally don't believe they will die and I have noticed that young people, particularly males, feel more indestructible physically than I believe they should, because they don't suffer from the health problems that older people do), and most people do care about living a happy life. From a practical standpoint, knowledge and logic tell people how to believe, precisely in an is-ought fashion: Do this, because you should, and this is why. Rand says individuals decide, via their reason, what they should do, yet doesn't place this individualism in the context of the anarchy (individual governance) that it seems to require. Perhaps someone more versed in her work can provide a better analysis? - SRS —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 05:15, 11 February 2007 (UTC).
A reading of Ayn Rand would help clarify understanding her Philosophy. Objectivist politics addresses how society could be, and *ought* to be organized (short form: mutual voluntary trade, free of coercion, is how we ought to get along with each other) as neccesitated by Objectivist ethics. Objectivism does not sanction anarchist notions. To live in a free society (free of coercion) requires a government to exercise a monopoly on the use of retalitory force, subject to objective rule of law, to defend each of us individually from coercive force (criminals & fraudsters, and foriegn nations). "Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law."

Karbinski (talk) 15:10, 19 February 2008 (UTC)

I'm sorry, but I've put in a reference to criticisms of Ayn Rand's derivation of ought several times, and several times its been removed. I see no justifiable excuse for, when an argument is brought up, not allowing its counter-argument to be referenced. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:11, 11 February 2009 (UTC)

Why would you include Ayn Rand's thoughts in an article about philosophy? Shouldn't philosophy be the job of philosophers? And no, you don't get to just call yourself a philosopher and therefore be one, despite what Rand may have thought. I think it's clear that anyone who says, like she repeatedly did, that they have no philosophical predecessors, has made it pretty clear that they are not in the business of philosophy. Plus, she wasn't interested in proving this particular statement, or any of her other statements: she just declared them, like aphorisms. As someone said above, she relied on "arbitrary judgments." Ayn Rand regarded all philosophers as illegitimate, so I don't see why it's at all necessary to include her arbitrary judgments in an encyclopedia entry on philosophy -- though I can appreciate the desire to placate her relentless followers. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:46, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

There are numerous justifications as to why Ayn Rand is a philosopher, her inclusion in both the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [1], and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy [2] speak volumes about what the field of Philosophy regards her as. We can discuss whether or not she was a "good" philosopher, but she most certainly was one. She also did answer the is-ought problem (fact), whether you regard it as valid or not has no bearing, but should be included in this article. (talk) 01:47, 12 April 2011 (UTC)

He views on philosophy are generally only notable to her followers, she is mostly ignored. You might have a marginally stronger case on ethics, but even then there are objectivist philosophers of higher standing and relevance. --Snowded TALK 04:51, 12 April 2011 (UTC)
Her "views on philosophy" might be known by a wider base if people like you didn't feel the need to suppress them. Wikipedia is supposed to be a free source of knowledge, not a tool by which a few can manipulate and control the dissemination of information. You, Snowded, seem to disagree with Rand, but that doesn't mean that her views should be suppressed. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:17, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
Your argument is paranoid and ill-founded. Ayn Rand has an entire article. Objectivism has an entire article. The cofounder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, seems to be an Objectivist. Wikipedia is not supposed to be a free source of information dissemination as you mean it. It's intended to disallow the dissemination of crackpot physics theories and non-notable topics, for example, through Wikipedia. — Olathe (talk) 23:45, 22 January 2016 (UTC)

Rand objectively did criticise the Is-Ought dichotomy and large numbers of people are persuaded by her criticism and have written works for publication on the topic. Does that not make it noteworthy? The preceeding conversation justifing exclusion seems to rely on either a) unjustified assertions of not-noteworthy b) generalised skepticism (i.e. on the assumption that epistemological skeptism is true in an absolute sense), or c) upon rejection of specific preceding assumptions Rand made (i.e. the objective nature of reality and the purpose of a moral code). These are all subjects of debate in philosophy, therefore by rejecting Rand's ideas from this page Wikipedia is guilty of adopting a PoV on various philosophical questions. If I knew how I would add the PoV tag to the page. If the work Rand did in her lifetime is not sufficiently well-formed for inclusion, then why not cite a more modern summary by an objectivist academic? Craig Biddle, Diana Hsieh, and Leonard Peikoff spring to mind (talk) 09:55, 24 September 2013 (UTC)

See also Tetracide's citation below (talk) 12:08, 25 September 2013 (UTC)


This article needs a separate intro with a concise definition of its premise. It just dives right into the subject right now. (That's how it is, and it ought not to be. ;) ) RobertM525 11:40, 27 February 2007 (UTC)


I've been reverting these persistent additions of a summary of the theory of one "Phil Roberts, Jr." sourced to a website ( I did so because the theory struck me as bad - like bringing in objectivity clarifies matters! - and because it looked like total vanity as far as I knew and Google told me. Does anyone know different or should I just keep reverting and also start warning the anon? --Gwern

(contribs) 05:11 8 April 2007 (GMT)

Looks like vanity posting. Keep reverting, and drop me a note if it becomes a problem. Banno 07:20, 8 April 2007 (UTC)

This is Phil Roberts, Jr. ( commenting on the above:

Here is the general schema of my is/ought derivation, which is one of myriads of implications of a basic premise, i.e., that 'feelings of worthlessness' (e.g., guilt) are a maladaptive byproduct of the evolution of rationality -- evidence that members of our species are perhaps becoming a little too rational (too objective) for their own good...

1. Assume that 'being rational' is simply a matter of 'being objective', not only cognitively, but valuatively as well (impartiality)

2. Demonstrate that this theory/definition of rationality can maximize explanatory coherence better than competing theories (the 'is' component) such as the means/end theory, rational choice theory, egoism, utilitarianism, etc, e.g....

a. the theory is compatible with a longstanding widely accepted paradigm for the rationality of ends, i.e., the formalization of prudence in the guise of the "equal weight" criterion (Sidgewick, 1908).

b. the theory can resolve the paradox of rational irrationality as described by Parfit in 'Reasons and Persons', p.12.

c. the theory can ameliorate cognitive vs. practical rationality conflict as examined at length by Nathanson in 'The Ideal of Rationality'.

d. the theory can resolve the longstanding and much publicized "rationality debate" (Cohen vs. Kahneman and Tversky) in a simple and straightforward manner, e.g., Cohen, 1981, 'The Behavioral and Brain Sciences'.

e. the theory is immune to the paradox of the Prisoners' Dilemma.

f. the theory is compatible with our common sense understanding of jury selection, etc.

3. Derive the 'ought' component via the syllogism:

Given that one is rational, then one ought to 'Love (intrinsically value) one's neighbor as one loves (intrinsically values) one's self', i.e., one 'ought' to be valuatively objective (impartial).

Perhaps someone could visit the website to see if there is any substance to this derivation, as presented in my paper, 'Rationology 101' This paper has been presented at three international conferences so far, including the International Society for Theoretical Psychology (2006) and the International Society for Human Ethology (2005). 19:05, 25 July 2007 (UTC)Phil


I'll refrain from making obvious jokes and get right to it: I have an objection to the reference in the end of the article referencing teachings by Buddha as being supernaturalist, in any way, shape, or form. Given the article is about a philosophy problem, it would be better to make a clearer example rather using one that shows an obvious lack of knowledge about its subject. Buddhist philosophy rejects any explicit or implicit need for a supernatural agent or force; it actually places importance in experiential verification. 20:15, 25 July 2007 (UTC) Chris

Quote: "Many people find Hume's thesis compelling, and see no hope for grounding moral statements in purely descriptive ones." This statement, I believe, would greatly benefit from a citation. How many are "many" people? Who took this consensus? Is this the majority view?


I love it. One comes up periodically with Wittgenstein's spelling in "Shew the fly out of the bottle". I'll add this to the list on my user page. Banno 07:59, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

Hume's Law merger proposal[edit]

I notice above that this issue as almost been discussed already. I dont know whether there is anything in the Hume's Law article that still needs to be included here, but I suggest that the Hume's Law page be made a redirect to this page after ensuring that the relevant information is in both this article and David Hume's article. The Hume's Law page is short and any nformaiton in it should be in this article anyway.Anarchia 21:48, 12 September 2007 (UTC)

I think it is a good idea; at least while there is not much information about Hume's Law. LFS 06:02, 27 November 2007 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Tito- (talkcontribs)

I think it is a bad idea and will serve to make it harder to understand this philosophical stuff by making unnecessarily long articles.--Filll (talk) 14:02, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Lack of Clarity[edit]

I think this article would be a lot more useful if the introduction were dumbed down a little so the 'problem' is more clear. The quote by Hume is kind of aged and could easily be replaced by something more modern and less formal. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:00, 15 September 2007 (UTC)


I am impressed that the word opinion does not appear even once in this article, when in fact the "is-ought problem" is merely a distinction between fact and opinion, and the axiomatic suggestion that opinions cannot be logically derived from facts. -- 05:12, 3 December 2007 (UTC)

An example of Scottish understatement by Hume? TonyClarke (talk) 01:35, 19 March 2008 (UTC)

Buddha's ethics[edit]

The following statement in the Criticism section of the article seems problematic: "By itself supernaturalism fails to elucidate morality since the supernaturalist must additionally show how we are to choose between competing supernatural ethical systems, for example Buddha's and Thor's, without appealing to naturalistic principles such as minimizing suffering. Consequently naturalists claim a supernaturalist approach to ethics appears arbitrary and has no explanatory advantage."

I can't speak to Norse mythology, but the question of whether or not the Buddha's ethics were supernaturally derived is a matter of debate. I think most Buddhists would argue that the Buddha's ethics were very naturalistic (based on direct observation), and specifically aimed at minimizing suffering. The easiest solution seems to be to remove the phrase "for example Buddha's and Thor's". Otherwise, some explanation of how the Buddha's methods were specifically supernatural should be provided.--Pariah (talk) 06:56, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

Continental Approach to the Problem[edit]

As far as Western approaches to this problem go, this article lacks some of the major arguments offered by Continental philosophers such as Husserl in his "Crisis..." of the --a treatise which had a powerful influence upon writers of the Frankfurt school. In turn, Adorno and Horkheimer's critique of the is-ought problem (in The Dialectic of Enlightenment), a critique influenced by not only Husserl but a reaction also to the so-called "scientific" horrors of the Nazis, has had a huge influence in English and Cultural Studies departments. (talk) 05:33, 17 May 2008 (UTC)


I am amazed that for such an article, there appear to be no actual examples which are presented to the reader.

Speaking in general philosophical terms really only appeals to students of philosophy. But for an encyclopædia article, some actual examples would go infinitely further towards explaining the issue to the general reader. EuroSong talk 10:02, 19 July 2008 (UTC)

One instance of the is-ought problem may be found in the Philosophy section here. Pyrrhon8 (talk) 18:07, 11 April 2009 (UTC)
A better instance of the is-ought problem may be found as the last paragraph in the article here.
talk 03:20, 20 April 2009 (UTC)

Would it then be a good idea to add these examples to this page? 2001:981:B88A:1:1807:61B7:6815:CD50 (talk) 12:00, 29 October 2014 (UTC)


I, for one, actually read the section on "Consequences of is-ought problem", but I am not in the least bit more enlightened than when I started. Not only is it long, but the words don't seem to say anything. Could someone try to simplify this so that someone who has taken only introductory philosophy in college can at least begin to grasp it? (talk) 22:29, 27 July 2008 (UTC)

Removals of Ayn Rand content from criticism section[edit]

The comment here sums things up niceley: previous restoration Karbinski (talk) 18:09, 13 April 2009 (UTC)

(edit conflict) This is a summary article on an established problem/issue in philosophy. There might be an argument to provide a summary of all philosophical schools approach to the problem (although I think it inadvisable). In the absence of that there is nothing notable or especially significant about the thoughts of Ayn Rand. We have had this problem elsewhere, including Philosophy (by the same editor as is involved here) with what are in effect propaganda attempts to promote the ideas of a minor American novelist. At the moment two editors have removed it, one has reinserted it. The fact that it is referenced and may or may not be true is not relevant, it fails tests of notability and weight. Other opinions? --Snowded (talk) 18:12, 13 April 2009 (UTC)

On what criteria does it fail the test? Karbinski (talk) 18:24, 13 April 2009 (UTC)
I think its pretty clear from the above but let me spell it out for you. There are many philosophical schools that take a position on the is-ought problem. There is no list of all those approaches, many of which have far greater status than Ayn Rand, who does not even appear in the vast bulk of philosophical literature. Singling out her views is to give weight to the weightless and notability to the unnotable. Philosophy articles are not the place to promote a particular political ideology --Snowded (talk) 18:29, 13 April 2009 (UTC)
Well, besides Ayn Rand being a very well known philosopher, she has not been at all ignored on this topic. Besides the source in the article:
The Journal of Libertarian Studies. Vol. VII, No I (Spring 1983), Patrick M. O'Neil and The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. Vol 9, No. 2 (Spring 2008) pp. 245-51, Tibor R. Machan.
The absence of allegedgley more noteworthy criticisms is evidence of exactly nothing. The bulk of the criticism section may be OR, for all any given reader knows, given its complete lack of citation. Karbinski (talk) 20:41, 13 April 2009 (UTC)
I am sure it is referenced, albeit it in a libertarian journal. That is not the point, singling out one person's views is to give undue weight. If it was notable then the approach would feature in works on Hume or mainstream works of philosophy. It doesn't, anymore than Ayn Rand's views are ever discussed outside a narrow circle of Libertarians and Objectivists. It fails weight and notability tests. --Snowded (talk) 20:56, 13 April 2009 (UTC)
I've established the notability of her view. Note that you have singled out a single individual - yet notable - viewpoint, not all of the single individual - yet notable - viewpoints. It passes weight and notability tests. Karbinski (talk) 21:11, 13 April 2009 (UTC)
You have asserted notability not established it, try and find a general philosophy text book on the is-ought problem (or any other philosophical issue) that shows her views in comparison with mainstream philosophers and I might be convinced. Sorry K, but this is simply yet another attempt to propogate Ayn Rand onto Philosophy pages and its not your first attempt. --Snowded (talk) 21:15, 13 April 2009 (UTC)
Ayn Rand is a highly notable philosopher, and propogating her onto Philosophy pages make emminent sense - it is not a crime brother. Your argument against her entry here would have to include Dennett's entry as well - both should stay of course - but your chosen focus is only Rand. You forget the likes of other notables such as Tara Smith, Harry Binswanger, Leonard Peikoff, Allan Gotthelf, amongst many others. I'm sure you'll agree that explicit agreement with a philosophy in no way negates one's knowledge of philosophy. Karbinski (talk) 21:38, 13 April 2009 (UTC)
Dennett appears in all the philosophical directories I have on my shelf, Rand appears in none. I note you have not taken up my repeated challenge to find her referenced in any general philosophy text book. --Snowded (talk) 04:44, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
Do not agree that Ayn Rand is a highly notable philosopher. Never seen any evidence or citations to support this contenion. Relevant would be (a)taught at significant number of univesities (b) works cited by significant number of other philosphers (b) article published in learned journals. The same test would apply to a claim that Ayn Rand (or, say Betrand Russell, Bob Dylan, Adolf Hitler) were highly notable biologists, poets, economists, painters or musicians. Even if Ayn Rand were a highly notable philosopher, inclusion on this article would require significant contribution to the topic in hand; the delted section failed that test as well. Not every highly notable philosopher has made a contribution to the topic, and hence not every highly notable philosopher's remarks on the problem are mentioned, and rightly so. Simlarly Betrand Russell was not a highly notable economist, Bob Dylan is not a highly notable biologist, Adolf Hitler was not a highly notable painter. --Philogo (talk) 10:42, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
see here: Ayn Rand Karbinski (talk) 13:44, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
There is nothing there that establishes she is a notable philosopher Karbinski, in fact its still an open issue as to whether she should be described as such. Its clear that the passage should go unless you can garner some support. --Snowded (talk) 20:04, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
Ummm, an entire systematic philosophy establishes it, see also Objectivism. Karbinski (talk) 20:21, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
Really, for a start several prominant objectivist philosophers, despite respecting Rand's political opinion reject her as a philosopher. Aside from that Objectivism, systematic or otherwise is not a major movement. Try answering the question I posed above Karbinski, if her view on this problem was notable it would appear in standard textbooks on the subject. It doesn't .... --Snowded (talk) 20:24, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
Her creation of Objectivism is highly notable, the starting point for evidence is her published non-fiction. Then you have the folks with Philosophy PhDs like Piekoff with their published work (including books). Then you have the Philosophy Professors with their published work (including books). As you go down the notability scale and drop into the peanut gallery, eventually you'll find self proclaimed philosophers who claim she isn't a philosopher. Followed closely by wiki editors unable to define the concept philosopher, but claim authoritative knowledge on who is and who isn't one. Karbinski (talk) 20:42, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
Answer the question K , your agenda is clear and I've exhausted good will on dealing with it. If you can answer the question I'll take you seriously (well not your views on nuking enemies of the good old USofA, but your views on her notability) --Snowded (talk) 20:53, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

Ummm, her notability is self-evident. And you taking little ol' me seriously or not on the issue is irrelevant. Karbinski (talk) 21:27, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

K: Can you cite any reputable sources for "Her creation of Objectivism is highly notable"? Can you explain what you mean by "self-evident"? Can you name a significant number of universities which teach the works Ann Raynd in their philosophy departments? Can you cite any of her works cited by significant number of other philosphers? Can you cite any of her articles published in philosophy learned journals? Can you cite any standard philosophy text books that deal with her in general, or mention "objectivism" in particular? Can you explain the difference between reasoned argument and mere assertion?--Philogo (talk) 23:30, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
actually in philosophy, i'd put her one step up from my notability... and that is pretty low. now in say popular literature related to philosophy, i'd say she's pretty high. in any case, her 'contribution' to this debate is entirely questionable because no noted philosopher has taken her 'claim' seriously and without the conversation.... in philosophy the idea is not notable. --Buridan (talk) 21:58, 15 April 2009 (UTC)
Very very very important to the world what you think is notable. For the rest of us mere mortals there is WP:Notable --Karbinski (talk) 22:17, 16 April 2009 (UTC)
You haven't answered a single question other than by assertion of the contrary, please stop edit warring you are at the 3RR limit. --Snowded (talk) 03:46, 17 April 2009 (UTC)
Hmm, no arguments, just contrary assertions... It seems Karbinski has been reading too much Ayn Rand and not enough philosophy. THIS IS NOT A DEBATE AMONG SCHOLARS. THEY DON'T EVEN TALK ABOUT AYN RAND. Is Karbinski saying he and his fellow lackeys are in a better position to judge who is and isn't a philosopher than the philosophical community? The answer is Yes, because Rand-roids don't believe anybody has access to the truth except for them. See how much it resembles a cult? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:05, 11 September 2009 (UTC)
WP:Notable says These notability guidelines only outline how suitable a topic is for its own article. [empahsis added] The topic of this article is the is-ought problem not the Ayn Rayn problem. K: If you cannot answers the questions raisied by other editors on the suitablity of the material in question please stop wasting time and spoiling this article.--Philogo (talk) 13:19, 17 April 2009 (UTC)
The "inclusion in general philosophy textbooks" or sources about the Is-Ought problem itself (rather than about Ayn Rand or her ideas) would seem to me to be the correct threshold for satisfying due weight. If Objectivist approaches are not presented in such textbooks, then they are not important enough to be in an encylopedia article, which must by necessity only cover the important points. Until such a source is given, i agree with the removal.YobMod 13:37, 17 April 2009 (UTC)
Hard to argue with that. --Karbinski (talk) 14:44, 17 April 2009 (UTC)
That leaves "nuking" then, if might makes right.--Philogo (talk) 21:49, 17 April 2009 (UTC)
Normally I roll my eyes and ignore Philogo babble, but you got me by having such a damn short comment. Might doesn't make right, the bad guys could win - evil would still be evil, and good would still be good. --Karbinski (talk) 03:27, 18 April 2009 (UTC)
Thanks to the editors/moderators for being so patient and assertive in getting that quote removed. It really didn't add anything, and Rand really isn't that important in academic philosophy, despite her relevance when it comes to popular literature with philosophical implications. Jwdink (talk) 23:36, 31 May 2009 (UTC)

I'm a philosophy student, and the few times I've even mentioned Ayn Rand to professors, they have literally LOL'd. Ayn Rand and her followers don't just get to declare her a philosopher: philosophy is a rigorous and respectful community that spans millenia, and she herself has said she owes no "philosophical debt" -- her words -- to anyone (except for Aristotle for defining logic -- hardly a notable connection). If she wants to remove herself from the philosophical community, far be it from lowly encyclopedistes to argue with her. Besides, there's no need to list every opinion of every philosopher on every philosophy page. It's abundantly clear that this minor, dead novelist simply has emphatic admirers who, not unlike fans of a celebrity or a sports team, want to spread positive and respectful reference to her throughout the Internet as much as possible. If there were a single professor, or just a person with a PhD in Philosophy from a real university, who would call Rand a serious philosopher with ideas worth considering, then perhaps it would make sense to reconsider. But to be a philosopher, you have to put forth arguments. Ayn Rand just puts forward declarations, and assigns labels to anyone who doesn't accept them, like "mystics" or "second-handers." She attacks philosophers for their conclusions, without addressing their arguments, because she doesn't understand how an argument is formulated. The fact that she had the gall to attack Kant -- and once again with no arguments, just by reductio ad absurdum and saying she didn't like his conclusions -- is hilarious. I think she's a skilled novelist, but when it comes to philosophy she simply DOES. NOT. QUALIFY.

There is no debate about this in academia, only on Wikipedia. You can draw your own conclusions about that fact. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:02, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

Ayn Rand's confrontation of the is-ought problem is directly discussed in the following philosophy textbook on page 219: "A History of Women Philosophers: Contemporary Women Philosophers, 1900-Today," by Dr. M.E. Waithe (link), Chair of the Philosophy Department at Cleavland State University (link) and editor of several other philosophy textbooks (link). I believe this meets YobMod's threshold for inclusion mentioned above. Tetracide (talk) 22:58, 14 September 2012 (UTC)

Just stopping by to say that I read this and (just in case it comes up again) I want to add my opinion to Snowded's; (s)he made a LOT more sense than Karbinski. (talk) 13:07, 24 October 2014 (UTC)

"Many modern naturalistic philosophers see no impenetrable barrier in deriving..."[edit]

The part from the above requires some citations.

Such as in the article where it states:

"This doesn't really address the problem however, since the "goal" is an implied ought. So this argument amounts to nothing more than deriving an ought from an ought."

And :

"For some naturalists..."

According to who? Faro0485 (talk) 19:28, 20 April 2009 (UTC)

i contributed to this section just yesterday. none of the parts you mention were actually written by me. they were already in the article--but i did incorporate 2 of the 3 lines you mention into my contribution so i guess i am somewhat responsible. do you have any tips or suggestions on how i can either reword things or find sources?
and also, does the line below (not written by me, but one of the lines incorporated into my contribution) really need a citation?

"This doesn't really address the problem however, since the "goal" is an implied ought. So this argument amounts to nothing more than deriving an ought from an ought."

cuz to me, this just seems like straightforward unassailable logic. i'm not totally clear on the policy, but if something just makes obvious sense, does it need a source? i hope i'm not coming off as a jerk--i'm sincerely asking.

--kfrancist (talk) 02:10, 24 September 2010 (UTC)

i'm trying to be careful not to make this a 'vanity post'[edit]

i recently added the paragraph that starts with "To root our value statements in the soil of reason..." under the heading 'criticisms and responses'. some of what i wrote has been skillfully condensed into that first sentence, which still uses my phrasing--but other than that, the rest of the paragraph was written by me the way it currently appears (what's interesting is that i had originally combined it with the 2 paragraphs above it, which i did not write, and someone has coincidentally separated them again--which i also think was a good edit).

but the reason i'm writing this is because i just made two edits to that paragraph. i changed "some have argued" to "it has been argued" because, as far as i know--and i've spent a great deal of time over the past 10-15 years researching this--nobody else has said this but me. i'm the writer of the article that is cited at the end of the paragraph. and i also put quotes around the passage that begins, "not just common to all human beings, like hunger..." and ends, "...with dissent being statistically negligible" since i had actually lifted that word for word from my article.

so i'm not sure if it was wrong of me to cite my own material in the first place--but my intention in doing so was to contribute what i believe is an important and valid point to the article. and since i'm kind of socially isolated from the academic philosophical community, it was unlikely that my argument would have appeared here otherwise--so there ya' go.

basically though, i want to make sure that my blog article is cited as the reference for that entire paragraph. but i'm not sure if the way i've done it so far makes that clear--but i also don't want it to look like i'm trying to just advertise my blog or something.

any advice on this would be appreciated.--kfrancist (talk) 01:12, 27 September 2010 (UTC)

You mention you've researched the material yourself, that your original research is novel as far as you know, and that you cited your own blog. Welcome to Wikipedia.
I've created your user talk page with important links you'll want to read through. Please understand the policies on reliable sources (WP:RS) and original research (WP:OR) have nothing what–so–ever to do with the quality, timeliness, truth or other merits of your writing. A self–published blog is generally not permissible except in limited contexts from authors with a well–established history of being published in WP:RS. Ideally, you need to published by a peer–reviewed academic journal or an established publisher with a reputation for fact checking. (Even then, it would typically be advisable not to cite your own work; or not to write about it at all—better that an independent editor may do that).
Please forgive me for being the bearer of bad news, but WP editors are strictly prohibited from including WP:OR. Any part of the material that can't be cited to WP:RS that are verifiable (WP:V) must be removed, (they don't need to be on the Internet, books are fine too, page numbers or at least chapter, etc. are very helpful). I know you expressed some doubt that any other sources exist, again I'm sorry if that's still the case, but perhaps another search might turn up something new?
Unless another editor has any objections or better advice, I suggest you go ahead and self–review your contributions, adding inline {{cn}} [citation needed] and {{or}} [original research?] templates where appropriate and remove any references to the self–published blog. Other editors might be able to add some sources or offer a more helpful suggestion. It will be necessary to remove WP:OR if it turns out it can't be sourced, (and regardless, editors are always at liberty to remove any material that's likely to be challenged if it doesn't have a source yet). Anything that's been removed can then be retrieved from the article's history tab at the top of the page.—Machine Elf 1735 (talk) 15:37, 27 September 2010 (UTC)
thanks for the response. i went ahead and removed my contribution.--kfrancist (talk) 07:25, 28 September 2010 (UTC)


"evolution relevantly suggests we do not have a telos" No, it doesn't. The theory of evolution is about the mechanism by which life changes over time; it has few philosophical implications not raised by any other natural process (eg against occasionalism) and absolutely no implications for the question of teleology (whether of humans, life in general or the universe in general). A lot of people write furiously against the idea that evolution is teleological, but what they really mean is that evolution isn't *predictable in advance* or that one cannot by looking at the principles of natural selection themselves derive humans. Teleology is a much bigger question than that, and one that natural science is close to irrelevant to.

In general, this article seems a bit biased toward the view that the 'is-ought problem' is in fact a genuine problem; it brings up statements by its advocates and opponents, but there is barely a mention of natural law ethics (a tradition long predating Hume and with far greater explanatory power) which denies the very existence of the problem. (talk) 14:30, 14 February 2011 (UTC)

As far as natural law goes, I at least mention it in the article now as a link. You are of course always welcome to (preferably with an account, for various reasons) take a stab at phrasing the point(s) you think might make this page better.
As for teleology, I grant that evolution was not necessary to the flow of explanation. As such, I have removed it. That having been said, I should say that I would happily argue elsewhere that the known details of evolution make the idea of God(s), and of a human telos, vastly less likely or necessary. -Tesseract2 (talk) 18:29, 14 February 2011 (UTC)

"The is–ought problem in meta-ethics"[edit]

Meta-ethics tells us where our sense of moral truth comes from, not where it should, therefore it should be "The is–ought problem in normative-ethics". Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Prescription vs. Linguistic Prescriptivism[edit]

I removed the link from the word "prescriptive" in the Intro to the entry for Linguistic prescription as that refers to one specific position in linguistic analysis and is not meant to capture the meaning of the general term "prescriptive." Linguistic prescriptivism is what we show when, e.g., we insist that others stop using "beg the question" to mean "raises the question," while prescription more generally happens when we say, e.g., that one ought to pay one's taxes.

Is it about two types of statements or the complete untranslatability of one kind of statement to the other?[edit]

I'm confused. If the fact-value distinction and the is-ought problem are essentially the same question (just perhaps two sides of the same question) it seems they should be merged into one article or at least the two articles should give the impression that the essential question is the same. But they don't give the impression of the essential question being the same. So are they the same question (in which case they need editing) or are they different questions?

I read the 'fact-value distinction' article a while ago, and it gave me the impression that the question is whether there is any difference between 'is' statements and 'ought' statements. Then I read the 'is-ought problem' article today, and it gave me the impression that the question is whether 'ought' statements can in any way be derived from 'is' statements. (ie, of course they are two types of statements; the question is whether there is anything translatable between the types of statements... or, perhaps better, whether there is anything in the human 'is,' e.g. a telos, that implies an 'ought;' thus making 'ought' statements a certain type of 'is' statement, but still not equivalent to the wider set of all 'is' statements).

Unless I'm making some serious mistake, surely these are two extremely different questions (the latter in fact assuming an answer to the former). So which one is it? Or is it both? Or is the former question what the fact-value distinction is about, and the latter question what the is-ought problem is about? (And if that's the case, shouldn't their names be the other way around?) (talk) 13:09, 24 October 2014 (UTC)

Hume's invention?[edit]

I am in discussion with another editor on Talk:David Hume/GA3 as to whether or not Hume actually invented the is-ought dictum. I have searched and can't find any RS to say that he was the first to point this out. Perhaps someone here knows better. Myrvin (talk) 11:32, 14 November 2014 (UTC)

"Religious Critics"[edit]

The line that begins "Religious critics.." uses ambiguous language. Are they critics of religion or are they critics that are of a religious disposition? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:43, 7 May 2015 (UTC)

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