In the last article I laid out the basic equation for resolving Hume’s “is-ought” dilemma. Here it is again, slightly modified:
Truth (X) = Purpose (of X) = Application (of X—where X cannot be applied either implicitly or explicitly as IS X and simultaneously IS NOT X)
The objective ought, then, is the non-contrary application of truth.
Hume’s “is-ought” dilemma in brief:
Hume asserts that when dealing with the question of morality—what one ought do—there is an inexorable disconnect between the non-hypothetical, objective IS of reality, and the hypothetical, subjective OUGHT of moral imperatives. For example, if God tells us that “Thou shalt not kill”, then, as a moral commandment (as opposed to a legal one, which it technically is, but for this example we will assume it’s moral), it can be more specifically rendered “Thou ought not kill”. The reason that Hume declares the ought statement fundamentally subjective is because what one chooses to do—choice being intrinsic to morality and thus “ought”—can never alter the fact that what IS absolutely and necessarily IS. The IS, you see, of anything observed and declared so, is rooted in the irreducible and absolute reality which informs choice, and thus the ought implied by choice—or more specifically, implied by volition—must inevitably affirm objective reality, regardless of what it is; and thus whatever one chooses, and whatever one recommends others choose (ought to do), will equally affirm objective reality, making the choices and the oughts themselves purely subjective. IS IS, and always will be, and therefore it is entirely objective. OUGHT is always subjective, on the other hand, because it is predicated on a fundamentally stable and unchanging reality (as said, the objective IS). What one chooses to do may alter how one observes reality, but it does not change reality at its root, because reality is absolute and immutable. It exists outside of one’s wishes and choices and therefore one’s particular morality…one’s “oughts”. Therefore morality, being rooted in volition and thus on “ought”, is always fundamentally subjective. It has no fundamental meaning beyond the capriciousness of cognition, and the the non-substantive nature of the abstract.
Further, by definition, choice is uncompelled, and thus it isn’t possible to declare what one MUST CHOOSE—or, what one objectively ought to do—because MUST CHOOSE implies “compelled choice”, which is a contradiction in terms (in the strictest sense, I mean…while it is true that one can be forced to choose this or that, if there is no option to not make the choice at all, then the choice itself is a false one). And this is why morality is about what one ought to do, not what one WILL or MUST do, further supporting the argument that morality is subjective.
So the Humean is-ought moral distinction means that one can never presume that one ever objectively ought to do this or that, as though what one ought to do is as objective as the frame of reference—the objective existential “IS”, of reality—to which all oughts are inexorably and naturally obligated. The assumption that oughts can be as objective as the IS of truth—as objective as the reality which is objective irrespective of man’s volition—is, according to Humean moral understanding, a substantial error of logic. What one ought to do must always be entirely subjective, since reality remains reality regardless of the ought-choice. What one ought to do is always hypothetical, and thus any categorical imperative—that one always ought make a specific choice as though it has any objective, immutable, bearing on reality—is impossible. Morality thus is always subjective.
And all of this is fine except for one thing:
It is completely wrong.
Hume’s assertions about morality and the separation between the is of reality and the ought of how the conscious observer shall engage his will in response to reality is, in all honesty, the most egregious relational error with respect to morality that I have ever had the displeasure of examining. And the fact that so many intellectuals—and atheists in particular, who are the most ironic “intellectuals” on earth, and whose apologetics are the most spurious and convoluted you will ever have the misfortune of examining—hang their ethics on such folderol leaves one wondering just where to find the “intellect” in the “intellectual”.
END (Part TWO)