The towering influence of Enlightenment philosopher David Hume has at least partially informed all of my articles across this past month (and, more indirectly, all of the articles before then as well). And although The Gemsbok’s artist, M.R.P., did a sketch of Hume for the article last week on epistemology, that homage would perhaps have fit better next to today’s article, which will consider a topic often attributed to David Hume—if not as its originator, at least as its first notable, direct, and clear articulator. The topic in question is the is-ought problem (also known as Hume’s Law).
A few of my readers, discussing my article on the exclusively functional objectivity of our socially evolved morality in a forum thread, have raised the is-ought problem as an objection to some of the ideas presented there. While I think that careful readers of that article will already have a fair idea of my response to such objections, I imagine it would be helpful to provide something more explicit. While I would not deny the existence and importance of moral oughts as such, I would seek to offer a moral anti-realist, contractarian account of what oughts ought to be.
Dealing in What Is: