PhilosophyBoi
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I'm aware of David Hume's argument but there are some parts that I do not understand. Can someone explain it?
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Joe312
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Hume’s law criticises naturalism. Hume said philosophers talk about the way things are and then jump with no apparent justification to a claim about the way things ought to be. Hume claimed this was a fallacy as is-statements do not entail ought-statements. Hume argues that you could be aware of all the facts about a situation yet if you then pass a moral judgement, that clearly cannot have come from ‘the understanding’ nor be ‘the work of judgement’ but instead come from ‘the heart’ and is ‘not a speculative proposition’ but an ‘active feeling or sentiment’. This looks like an argument against realism but also against cognitivism and for non-cognitivism, specifically emotivism.

To illustrate, take the example of abortion. Some argue that because a foetus develops brain activity at a certain time, it’s wrong to do abortion past that point. However, that inference has a hidden premise; that it’s wrong to kill something which has brain activity. It’s a fact that the foetus has brain activity, but that it’s wrong to kill something with brain activity does not seem like a fact nor derived from a fact. We might try and justify that further by suggesting that it’s wrong to kill human life or cause pain and so on. However, while it’s factual that there is such a thing as the ending of human life and the causing of pain, is it a fact that doing such things are wrong? We can easily imagine what sort of evidence establishes that ‘pain can be caused’ is a fact, but it’s not easy to see how to do that to establish that ‘it’s wrong to cause pain’ is a fact.
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PhilosophyBoi
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(Original post by Joe312)
Hume’s law criticises naturalism. Hume said philosophers talk about the way things are and then jump with no apparent justification to a claim about the way things ought to be. Hume claimed this was a fallacy as is-statements do not entail ought-statements. Hume argues that you could be aware of all the facts about a situation yet if you then pass a moral judgement, that clearly cannot have come from ‘the understanding’ nor be ‘the work of judgement’ but instead come from ‘the heart’ and is ‘not a speculative proposition’ but an ‘active feeling or sentiment’. This looks like an argument against realism but also against cognitivism and for non-cognitivism, specifically emotivism.

To illustrate, take the example of abortion. Some argue that because a foetus develops brain activity at a certain time, it’s wrong to do abortion past that point. However, that inference has a hidden premise; that it’s wrong to kill something which has brain activity. It’s a fact that the foetus has brain activity, but that it’s wrong to kill something with brain activity does not seem like a fact nor derived from a fact. We might try and justify that further by suggesting that it’s wrong to kill human life or cause pain and so on. However, while it’s factual that there is such a thing as the ending of human life and the causing of pain, is it a fact that doing such things are wrong? We can easily imagine what sort of evidence establishes that ‘pain can be caused’ is a fact, but it’s not easy to see how to do that to establish that ‘it’s wrong to cause pain’ is a fact.
This took me a few attempts to understand but I think I get the essence of it.

So Hume believes that we cannot make an assumption about what we should have done if we have no knowledge or understanding of the initial situation. And also that even if we have all the facts and knowledge ahead of us, then we will likely only base our "oughts" on feelings and moral perspectives as opposed to what we should truly do - whatever that may be.
I don't know if I have summarised that right?
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Joe312
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(Original post by PhilosophyBoi)
This took me a few attempts to understand but I think I get the essence of it.

So Hume believes that we cannot make an assumption about what we should have done if we have no knowledge or understanding of the initial situation. And also that even if we have all the facts and knowledge ahead of us, then we will likely only base our "oughts" on feelings and moral perspectives as opposed to what we should truly do - whatever that may be.
I don't know if I have summarised that right?
You got the second part right, but for the first it's more that if you knew all the facts of a situation, like all the biological facts about foetus development, none of those facts (is) would be nor entail a moral proposition (ought) such as that it's wrong to kill the foetus.

To move from 'the foetus has brain activity' to 'it's wrong to kill the foetus when it has brain activity' you need to sneak in the hidden premise 'it's wrong to kill something with brain activity' which just does not look like a fact because it's impossible to point to the part of empirical reality which makes it true. Whereas it's easy to point to the part of reality which makes the brain activity of a foetus true; the brain of a foetus.

So people have emotional attachments to certain facts which causes them to sneak values into factual discussions when really they have failed to derive those values from facts, instead their values are coming from, as you rightly said, their feelings.
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Justvisited
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This illustration seems a poor one to me - abortion is opposed because the unborn are as human as we all are, not because of the detection of any given given stage of development
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PhilosophyBoi
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(Original post by Justvisited)
This illustration seems a poor one to me - abortion is opposed because the unborn are as human as we all are, not because of the detection of any given given stage of development
This was used only as an example - I agree with you JustVisited about your point about human/unborn - to demonstrate a scenario.
You could say that you have derived an emotivist statement from a fact that "the unborn are as human as we all are". This does not necessarily mean that your statement is true because a fact cannot then lead to a moral fact that accounts for everyone.
It is the (just-your-opinion) rule in the "is-ought" argument regarding the "ought-gap".

Is that right, I probably made that up :-)
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Joe312
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(Original post by Justvisited)
This illustration seems a poor one to me - abortion is opposed because the unborn are as human as we all are, not because of the detection of any given given stage of development
I think you'll find that abortion is opposed for a range of reasons, both of those being representative of some views. Any person who proposes a limit to abortion based on the gestation period will do so for some reason like brain development or heartbeat. Any example of an ethical judgement will serve.
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PhilosophyBoi
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(Original post by Joe312)
I think you'll find that abortion is opposed for a range of reasons, both of those being representative of some views. Any person who proposes a limit to abortion based on the gestation period will do so for some reason like brain development or heartbeat. Any example of an ethical judgement will serve.
I noticed in a lesson that there are two types of "is".

1) Where "is" can be based on an opinion - such as 'abortion is wrong'
2) Where "is" can be based on unchangeable fact - such as 'vitamin C is in oranges'

I wonder if that is brought up by Hume or any other scholar?
And I guess this changes the validity of the "ought", right?
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