Tag Archives: solving Hume’s guillotine

Hume’s Guillotine Has No Blade (Part THREE): The difference between ethics and morality, why ethics and morality cannot be avoided, and why this is an insurmountable problem for advocates of Hume’s Law

Before we go any future on the specifics of the “is-ought” dichotomy, it is crucial that we understand the distinction between ethics and morality. Anyone not able to clearly articulate the differences between these two philosophical ideas and how they specifically relate has no business discussing Hume’s law, or any other ethical or moral question, for that matter…because they can have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Understanding Hume’s is-ought dilemma and, more importantly, its complete rational, not to mention ethical, failure is predicated upon knowing the difference and the relationship between morality and ethics. Thankfully, it is quite simple.

“Ethics” is the broad philosophical category. Morality is a type of ethics—an ethical system based upon a specific epistemology, and this rooted in a specific metaphysical description of realty…a metaphysical primary. Moral behavior can be ethical behavior, but only if the ethics being implied are rooted in an epistemology which implies morality, and that rooted in a metaphysics which implies the epistemology which implies the moral ethics.

Not all ethics, therefore, are moral. Legality, for example, is a completely different type of ethics, because legality is rooted in fundamentally different epistemology and metaphysics. Thus, there is for example no such thing as a “moral law”…this is a complete fallacy. “Moral law” is a contradiction in terms, because morality and legality presume completely different epistemology and metaphysics (a comprehensive discussion of this can be found in many previous articles on this blog). Speaking of “moral law”, a third example of ethics might be a hybrid of legality-morality that one might find in western liberal democracies, where the law is said to exist in service to moral truths. This hybrid is fundamentally irrational and observably false, because governments dictate, they do not suggest, and you cannot dictate morality. Morality is rooted in choice. One only acts morally IF they are able to exercise choice. Legality is rooted in authority, and authority is force. And forced behavior is by definition behavior which is compelled, and thus is irrespective of choice.

So, whenever morality is discussed, such as in Hume’s Law, it is important to remember that we are dealing with a specific kind of ethics—morality—and these are rooted in specific epistemology and specific metaphysics. Hume’s Law would be anathema to legality, other than perhaps a tangential affirmation of it, because legality cannot accommodate any “ought”—categorical, hypothetical, or otherwise. Legality tells us what ethical behavior one WILL DO—or else suffer punishment from the external authority in charge—not what one ought do—or else suffer consequences that one has brought on himself.

Hume’s Law only addresses morality, and specifically, it is the explicit assertion that morality is an irrational type of ethics, and thus is not objective, and thus does not actually exist, and thus is utterly inefficacious and irrelevant to reality and truth. Proponents of Hume’s Law are NOT—and this is crucial to understand—denying that objective ethics exist even if they think they are (and I submit that likely most of them do). They are merely denying that objective moral ethics exist.

But the declaration of the utter spuriousness of morality MUST be based upon preconceived epistemological and metaphysical assumptions. In other words, ethical conclusions are an unavoidable outcome and consequence of epistemological and metaphysical foundations and assumptions, and are derived directly from them. That is, those foundations inexorably and inevitably lead to ethical conclusions, and thus cannot lead to NO ethics. They may not lead to no MORAL ethics, but they will lead to some type of ethics.

Therefore, the question which should be routinely posed to proponents of Hume’s Law and advocates of the is-ought contraction is: What are your ethics? What is your definition good and the evil if not in terms of morality? And if they have no answer, or their answer is incomplete, then they can have no real argument against morality. Because it means that their metaphysics and epistemology have lead them either to NO ethical conclusions, which means that they have NO understanding of nature of reality (metaphysics) and NO understanding of what constitutes truth (epistemology), OR their metaphysics and epistemology are false and/or insufficient. In either case, they can make no rational claim against morality, since one can only disprove a given ethics—in this case morality— by providing more logical and consistent ethics, and this by holding a more logical and consistent epistemology and metaphysics.

And this, I submit, is impossible…moral ethics are in fact the MOST rational ethics possible. In my experience, without moral ethics one is left inevitably defending either the idea of “no ethics”, which is impossible because any ethical assertion, even the conclusion that there are no ethics, is based upon metaphysical and epistemological conclusions that MUST and NECESSARILY lead to specific ethics (the conclusion that there is no ethics implies that there is no epistemology and no metaphysics, which means that they cannot assert anything about ethics including that they do not exist; in fact, they cannot assert anything about anything at all), OR they are left defending legal ethics, which are rooted in rationally bankrupt metaphysics.

Just quick word on that:

The metaphysics of legality are unavoidably determinist, which makes them inexorably a zero sum proposition. The assertion of determinism is the assertion of nothing at all. Any determining force must itself be determined, since all of its outcomes, according to the very nature and definition of determinism, could at no time, ever, have been theoretical, hypothetical, unknown, or non-existent—in other words, the determinist force at no time could NOT have determined the outcomes it determined, making the outcomes of determinism as infinite and absolute as determinism itself. This leaves no distinction between the determinist force and the outcomes it has determined. This makes determinism an infinite regression to itself, concluding at nothing but itself, and proceeding from nowhere but itself. Determinism—determinist metaphysics, the metaphysics of legal ethics—is a self nullifying proposition

But enough of that. On to part four.

END part Three

Hume’s Guillotine Has No Blade (Part TWO): What is Hume’s Law as it relates to reality?

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)

Hume’s Guillotine Has No Blade: Solving Hume’s “is-ought” dilemma is relatively simple and straightforward (Part ONE)

I’ve been sitting on this article series for a couple of weeks, ever since I listened to a debate between Stefan Molyneux and Stephen Woodford, who runs a channel on YouTube called “Rationality Rules”, on Stefan’s theory of objective universal morality, which he calls “universally preferable behavior (UPB)”. This is an interesting debate, and I encourage everyone to look it up and watch it…it was educational, though it failed to ultimately resolve anything, and leaves them both pretty much holding the same ground as when they started. This is because both are a little right and a little wrong. Stefan is right in that objective universal morality exists, but he is wrong because he doesn’t know why or how, and his UPB theory is entirely insufficient; Stephen is wrong because he attempts, through the application of “Hume’s Law”, or the “is-ought” dichotomy, to create a mutual exclusivity between epistemology and ethics (though I’m not sure he fully recognizes how exactly he does this), and he rejects the notion of universal morality; but Stephen is right in that Stefan blatantly violates the is-ought dichotomy in UPB without first resolving it, then Stefan proceeds to ignore that fact. Which is pretty bad form. Further, Steven explains that Stefan creates a circular argument for UPB by putting his conclusion (all arguments against UPB are necessarily invalid) in his premise (that to argue against UPB is to concede it). Stefan seems genuinely flummoxed by this, and doesn’t understand that this completely nullifies UPB before it reaches the runway. Which is not a great look on someone boasting his philosophical and intellectual pedigree by publishing an entire book on universal secular ethics.

At any rate, I have desired to post my resolution to the is-ought dichotomy for while now, but I didn’t know where to insert it…other matters, like the coronavirus panic and political and financial opportunism and profiteering being passed off as “public health” seemed more urgent matters to address. However, since I’ve come to realize that public and government responses to the coronavirus panic seemed to have collapsed the American State entirely, I figured that this crisis wasn’t going to end anytime soon. So…my point is, for lack of a better place or time, here it is the relatively straightforward and simple solution to the is-ought morality question:

I will start with the basic equation for a necessary and rationally consistent objective universal morality, with a little bit of description, and then I will expand on it in subsequent articles.

Truth (X) = Purpose (of X) = Application (of X, where X shall not be applied as though X were simultaneously both X and NOT X, for this shall contradict X (contradict Truth))

The contradiction of truth by failure to accept the necessary application of truth—and this as a function of the corollary purpose of truth (for truth absent purpose is “irrelevant truth”, which is an obvious contradiction, because “irrelevant truth” is otherwise rendered “meaningless truth”)—in a way which does not contradict truth (contradiction being the implicit or explicit assertion that X simultaneously is and is NOT X) results, necessarily, in the nullification of truth, which of course nullifies any arguments criticizing universal morality as being, itself, an intrinsic contradiction.

The “objective ought”, as it were, is imbedded within and implied by “application”, which is necessarily volitional, as “non-volitional application” is merely the effect of a given cause.  Cause indeed implies effect, but this is an entirely separate issue from that of truth, which necessarily implies purpose. Like cause and effect, truth and purpose are corollary, but a cause need not necessarily have a purpose, which makes it a “purposeless cause” with a thus corresponding “purposeless effect”. And, again, this has nothing to do with truth, because “purposelessness” has fundamentally nothing to do with meaning, where truth has everything to do with it. Truth necessarily needs a purpose in order for it to be known that the truth is, in fact, truthful. As mentioned, “purposeless truth” is a contradiction because “purposeless truth” is “irrelevant truth”, or “meaningless truth”. In which case, if a truth is meaningless, then by what standards or means shall we claim that it is true?
There are none.
Therefore, to remove purpose from truth is to declare a truth only true to itself, which is a circular argument and thus a logical fallacy. In other words, “objective truth” without “objective purpose” is a circular, self-nullifying definition of truth. The objective moral ought, then, is a direct function of a truth’s corresponding purpose, and is imbedded and implied in the application of truth, which as I said must be volitional—that is, a function of will—in order for it to be application, and not merely effect.