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.


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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.