Is-Ought Fallacy

Is-Ought Fallacy

Is-ought problem is one that got articulated by the Scottish Historian named David Hume. It states that several writers make certain claims regarding what ought to be depending on the statement of what is. He discovered that there is a huge difference between normative or prescriptive statements and positive statements. It also helped one understand that it is quite obvious the way one can transcend from descriptive statements to prescriptive statements. This problem is also referred to as Hume’s guillotine.  This view was also shared by Moore’s argument which had the intention of refuting whatsoever identification of moral properties along with natural properties

Is ought fallacy

The is-ought fallacy is one that happens when an assumption is made on the premise that since things are in a particular way, they have to be that way. It can also be predicated on the fact that since something is not happening at the moment, it shouldn’t occur. It, therefore, suffices to say that the status quo must be maintained. It simply attempts to get a moral angle from the description of an occurrence. The difference which exists between ought statements and is statements when coupled with Hume’s fork makes ought to statement a questionable validity. For instance, Hume’s fork is of the view that all knowledge items are predicated upon definitions or logic or perhaps on observation.

This fallacy attempts to put great value on facts as against moral views. It should be noted that just because something is a certain way does not imply that it has to be that way. This on its own maybe one of the most complex fallacies to identify. Several examples buttresses this fact. For instance, just because murder is a common thing among human beings does not suggest that it ought to be in existence.

What Is The Implication Of This Problem?

Ethical naturalists believe that moral truths exist and that the value of their truth is proportional to certain facts about physical reality. Several contemporary naturalist philosophers do not see any barrier in getting ought from “is” due to the belief that one can do it whenever a goal-directed behavior is analyzed. They think.

The is-ought fallacy of morality and science

Since G.E. Moore and David Hume came up with the problem that exists between prescriptive problems and descriptive statements, the majority of scientists have given up the high-ground required to determine human morals, values, and ethics to the philosophers. They concluded that science can only talk about how things are and not how they should be. This in itself is a big error!

We indeed need to be concerned about the fact that scientists appear to have given up on the quest to determine wrong and right. This is while also determining which of the values lead to human progress. This is even so because the research tools needed for implementing it are coming up via certain tools such as experimental ethics, evolutionary ethics, and neuro-ethics. It, therefore, suffices to say that the naturalistic fallacy is a fallacy in itself. Values and morals have to based upon the way via which things are to create the best system for humans to flourish. It is important to allow science to take charge and take us to a point where scientists can at least have a say regarding how we ought to live.

To achieve this, it is imperative to begin from the micro-components of society because the organism is the main target of social evolution and natural selection. It, therefore, suffices to say that the core basis for establishing morals and values is the progress made by the individual organism. It thus means that the goal of the science of morality should be to determine the conditions in which people live. Also, the constitutions in our societies should be predicated upon the laws of human nature and science is perhaps the best way to understand our nature as humans.

What Are The Factors That Necessitate The Involvement Of Science?

From the theory of evolution, we understand that the concept of reciprocal altruism which states that “scratch my back, I will scratch your back” is universal. What this means is that people are only generous because they believe they will get something in return. Also, we understand via behavior genetics that about 50 percent of the variance which exists with people in terms of personality, temperament and other preferences is often inherited.

Furthermore, we understand from the evolution of psychology that the concepts of moralistic punishments are universal. It simply means that if you do not scratch my back, I will punish you. People do not always have tolerance for people who seem to only receive but never give. It is also understood from the behavioral game theory regarding between-group enmity and within-group amity the concept of trust.

Finally, regarding the concept of behavioral economics, we understand that the need for people to trade with themselves creates trust among different people. This, in turn, reduces the tendency for enmity among people. This by extension leads to increased prosperity among the people.

The view of discourse ethics

Advocates of discus ethics think that the concept of discourse is one that suggests some elements of “ought.” This means certain presuppositions which are often adopted by the participants in discourse. It is therefore argued that it is quite unreasonable to push an ethical position simply on the premise of ought-is problem which is often a contradiction of these assumptions.

Moral ought

A person may be seen as good if there is an inherent purpose among people. Several ethical systems adopt this.   This is applicable for some forms of moral realism which indicates that something may be wrong regardless of what everyone else thinks. An ethical realist may believe that human beings were formed for the supreme purpose of serving God. This is especially so when they are ethical non-naturalists. Also, if an ethical realist is instead an ethical naturalist they may think that human beings have changed and as such chase after some evolutionary concepts.

It should, however, be indicated that not every moral system is affected by the human purpose of telos. The reason for this is that it is not often obvious that human beings have any form of natural purpose or what such a purpose may be. Even though several scientists know about teleonomy, not many philosophers are open to the idea so that they can prevent naturalistic fallacy.

“Ought” that are dependent on goals often encounter problems even when they do not appeal to an in-built human purpose. You may want to consider a case of someone who does not have any desire to do well. And in most instances, doing well is synonymous with washing your hands. It then appears that one morally ought to wash their hands. The main challenge with moral philosophy can be traced to what happens when a person does not want to be good. Therefore, in what sense do we ought to hold the said goal of being perceived as good. How will one be rationally required to view well as a value or even chase after it?

Institution-based facts

Based on insight by John Searle, there was an attempt to explain the simple act of placing one under an obligation because of a promise. An in such a situation, the obligation is tantamount to ought. This school of thought is still widely been debate and to give a definite response, Searle has further worked on the concept of institutional facts. For instance, the idea that a building is a bank and paper is money is largely predicated upon the overall perception of those institutions and the value they hold.

Moral realism

The moral realist position was adopted by Phillippa Foot who criticized the idea that when a certain evaluation gets superposed on the fact that there must be a committal from a different angle. What she does is to bring about via an analogy the implications of adopting the term “injury.” It is of the view that there has to be a form of impairment.


Some of the time, this fallacy may even be taken to be the same as to appeal to tradition. This is the one that is based upon the premise that such a thing had been done before and as such should be done again. Several unique things make this fallacy worthy of discourse among philosophers and other professionals alike. It is, however, pertinent to note that the different angles it presents are such that create more opportunities for discovery.

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