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Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 10, 2008

Ethics

Heiner F. Klemme
Pages 237-243

Hume’s Law reconsidered

In this talk, Hume’s distinction between ‘is’ and ‘ought’ in the Treatise of Human Nature will be discussed. It will be argued that Hume accuses previous moral philosophers neither of committing a logical error in their reasoning, nor of falling short of a possible deduction of an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ because of false assumptions. Rather, Hume argues that these philosophers have an incorrect notion of reason: By means of reason, we do not discover eternal moral truths, and also, reason does not motivate us. According to Hume, reason reveals only causal relations that exist between external facts and our emotions, which are facts as well. The ‘ought’ is located just in our emotions and not in the things which evoke the moral emotions inside us.

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