Hume’s law as a psychological thesis: an interpretation of and solution to the “is-ought” problem

Erdenk, Emre Arda
This thesis provides an interpretation of David Hume’s “is-ought” problem. According to this interpretation, “is-ought” problem suggests a psychological claim that there cannot be any moral relations. Based on this, I claim that Hume’s Law can be adequately interpreted as a psychological thesis. By means of this, I evaluate three main arguments of Treatise 3.1.1 and analyze the “is-ought” passage in virtue of a contextual reading. Ultimately, I conclude that Hume’s Law is not a logical claim against deductions of moral propositions from non-moral propositions. The Law states that moral propositions are not relations of ideas or inferred from matters of facts. Based on this interpretation, I provide a solution to this problem. I evaluate Hume’s notion of natural relations and, contrary to Hume’s claim, I claim that natural relations must be simple impressions of sensation. In addition to this, moral relations can be natural relations as simple impressions of sensation. According to this last claim, I argue that there can be moral relations as simple impressions. v Therefore, Hume’s Law as a psychological thesis is invalid. My solution to the “is-ought” problem fixes some inconsistencies between Hume’s Law and Hume’s moral psychology. Ultimately, my alternative explanation provides an equally powerful explanation of how we derive moral judgments and obligations.
Citation Formats
E. A. Erdenk, “Hume’s law as a psychological thesis: an interpretation of and solution to the “is-ought” problem,” Ph.D. - Doctoral Program, Middle East Technical University, 2014.