Quote of the Day: No ought from is

Richard Goode's picture
Submitted by Richard Goode on Mon, 2007-11-19 13:02

No ort from iz in mai copulashunz

David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature

( categories: )

We Need Ethics

James S. Valliant's picture

Hume writes, "[i]n every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with..." and, obviously, he could never have heard of the Objectivist case, so...

More to the point, moral evaluation of another person's ~ character ~ (a very real thing) is vital to my well-being. The development of one's own moral character is still more important. The correct assignment of moral blame and praise, that is, being just, is a crucial aspect of this.

In establishing a correct hierarchy of values, ethics tells me how much I should CARE about a given issue open to human choice. (And even Richard cannot escape caring most intensely about certain attitudes and behaviors, such as racism.)

One must not merely describe a Hitler, one must evaluate him -- and in a form that is loaded with policy-implications (in his case, quite a number of "oughts" based on the "is" we find him to be.)

To compare this process, even implicitly, with things like astrology or reincarnation is to undermine our appreciation for the very real and practical need we have for ethics.

I think that we should also provide the link to the discussion here.

Lots of intelligent people

Newberry's picture

Lots of intelligent people can have trouble with normative abstractions. Eye




Newberry's picture


Nice one Liz!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I've often asked Dr. Goode why he ought not jump off a tall building or in front of a fast car. Blank-out. As with all my questions. But don't get me started. I said I'd stay out of this. Crap of his kind sends my blood pressure through the roof and endangers ... my life. Smiling

Still, some one ought (ahem) to ask Dr. Goode where his oughts come from.

From Is to Ought

Liz's picture

"If you want to see an abstract principle, such as moral action in material form-there it is. Look at it, Mr. Rearden. Every girder of it, every pipe, wire and valve was put there by a choice in answer to the question: right or wrong? You had to choose right and you had to choose the best within your knowledge-the best for your purpose, which was to make steel-and then move on and extend the knowledge, and do better, and still better, with your purpose as your standard of value... Nothing could have made you act against your judgement, and you would have rejected as wrong-as evil-any man who attempted to tell you that the best way to heat a furnace was to fill it with ice."

Ayn Rand
Atlas Shrugged p.451

Here it is again

Richard Goode's picture

Here's the quotation in it's original form:

In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remark'd, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surpriz'd to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it shou'd be observ'd and explain'd; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it.

There is some evidence to suggest that, even as his magnum opus fell dead-born from the press, Hume was anticipating a future translation into lolcat. Note, for example, how he spells the word 'surprised'.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.