“A question I have had while the discussion of is and ought was going on was – who says there is an ought? ” Jerald  someone asked

This is a very important aspect of the “is-ought” issue.

The reason “ought” cannot be derived from <is> is that they belong to quite different realms.

IS relates to what exists (appears to exist) in the physical world of matter and energy, space and time.

OUGHT is related to the human (behavioral) world which has no relevance in a world without humans.

This does not make OUGHT any less important for evolved (moral) human beings.

Singing and dancing, music and humor, also belong to the human world, and are of enormous value to our cultural dimension. They too don’t follow for IS.

To answer more specifically the question “who says there is an ought?”:

The Ten Commandments say, the Shaira says, the Dharma Shastras say, the statutory laws say, and perhaps there is a conscience that says for most of us that there is an ought: they even spell out what the oughts are.

The debate often is on whether these follow from the laws of electromagnetism, gravity, the standard model, etc. which are among the building blocks of the IS realm. And I have always said, “No, siree, they don’t.”

If one seeks the root of our ethical framework,  it seems to me more plausible that the <ought> arose  from a transcendent principle (as religions maintain) or from cultural evolution (as evolutionary psychologists do), than that it is logically linked to the IS world of physical laws which have been there in the universe B.B. (Before Biology).

April 25, 2010


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