Denial of the is/ought gap

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Denial of the is/ought gap is a key element to certain metaethical positions, specifically certain forms of moral objectivism and moral realism. These denials can take many forms. Some moral objectivists invoke a supernatural being to universalize their values, whilst moral realists collapse the boundary by attempting to show that at least some values are embedded in facts.

Moral Realist Denials

Sam Harris denies the is/ought gap by claiming that the facts of human suffering directly lead us to value well-being. There are values which arise naturally in the course of conscious existence, such as the value of not wanting to be burned after one has touched a hot stove and discovered firsthand the pain of burning. [1]

In this construal, the statement that “touching a hot stove is good” is an immoral proposition, forming the basis of his broader claim that a moral system is one that maximizes the well-being of conscious creatures.

In The Moral Landscape, Harris writes:

“I am simply saying that, given that there are facts—real facts—to be known about how conscious creatures can experience the worst possible misery and the greatest possible well-being, it is objectively true to say that there are right and wrong answers to moral questions, whether or not we can always answer these questions in practice.” (2010, p. 30)[2]

Moral Objectivist Denials

Statement of the claim There is no is/ought problem
Level of certainty Not Proven
Nature Factual/ethical
Counterclaim The is/ought gap
Dependent on

Dependency of