HOME   People do good because they are human, not because they are religious! 

Do not give God any credit for the good they do, they did it!

 

David Hume - his assertion that as something being wonderful does not imply that it ought to be for facts and morals are unconnected (and vice versa) - an ought is not an is and an is is not an ought for they are two separate things

Here is an argument.

1 When you do what you ought to because you ought to, you are doing what is moral.
2 The boy is feeding the poor.
3 The boy is morally good.
 
Many say this argument looks correct but it does not follow that the boy is morally good because of the fact that he feeds the poor. An ought cannot be derived from a fact or an is. If they are right then what?
 
Then the argument contradicts morality.
 
The argument is a lie.
 
The argument is not logical.
 
The argument is all in your head.
 
The argument is really an assumption or emotion disguised as an argument.
 
Many people feel that the boy is moral. That is all that they are doing and they don't want to admit it. Feeling somebody is moral is useless for the Nazis felt Hitler was moral.
 
Even if the argument made sense in itself, it is made valueless by the fact that you never see into the heart of another no matter how hard you try. There are lots of hearts out there broken over the mistake of thinking otherwise. The argument makes the assumption that if we can see the boy feeding the poor, we can also see he is morally good. This implies that you are ready to see him as morally bad if he does not. But that would mean judging somebody as evil just because you feel they are. Yet morality insists you have no right to do this. Christ said you must not judge by appearances but fairly. Feelings are no reason to condemn anybody's actions.
 
Morality is incoherent. It is prejudice masquerading as virtue. That would not mean you can ditch it for the alternative is worse. It would be a necessary evil.
Here is another version of the argument. This time it is about morality but not morality as in helping others.


1 When you do what you ought to, you are doing what is moral.
2 The boy is going to Mass or saying a prayer.
3 The boy is morally good.
 
If the previous version of the argument was flawed this is terrible beyond words.
 
We conclude that if morality is hypocritical then we can do without religion adding in "morals" that make it worse. The boy is being degraded by the argument no matter how good Christians feel about his behaviour.

 

We see then the essential reasons for thinking facts do not give you morals.  What had David Hume who said just that have to say about it?

 
David Hume published Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding in 1748.
 
His points.
 
# Moral philosophy is the science of human nature - it is about what people are and what they are like.
 
In other words, it is human nature to want to be good and sometimes to be bad. Whether we can be really good or not is beside the point.
 
The error here is in confusing good with morality. The law giving the criminal freedom and a nice holiday would be good but immoral according to most people.
 
Morality is about control not goodness as such. It implies that you must do good - whatever people think that means - and suffer retribution if you do not. Retribution is about giving you what you deserve. If you are sent to jail to reform you or to put others off committing crimes that is not punishment. Its not concerned about what you have earned. Christianity used to teach that those who hated the innocent deserved to be hated in return. Now it says that they deserve punishment but not the punishment of being hated. If that is true then retribution is wrong and they have no right to punish anybody. Their doing so is hatred. They make hypocrites of themselves.
 
Some philosophers think his point could be reworded, "People should seek to be happy." That admits the fact that we like to be happy. It is about what we are. We cannot want plenty of sex partners, money, glory and power for themselves. They are not ends in themselves. They are used to trigger the mechanism that allows happiness to be experienced.
 
If "people should seek to be happy" is false, then being a good person is just absurd. Being a moral person is absurd.
 
But notice this, "people should seek to be happy" is inconsistent. It is an absurdity. Should implies, "Force the person to do this on pain of retribution." But forcing a person to want to be happy or to try to be happy is self-contradictory. Happiness cannot be compelled. And to bring in retribution says, "Thankfully those who do not seek to be happy will suffer for it." If happiness is so good then its a contradiction to say that somebody should be unhappy. To oppose somebody's happiness is to oppose their wellbeing and to act as if you hated them.
 
# There is no way we can find ultimate justification for what we say is morally right and morally wrong.
 
This is not saying that there is no such thing as right and wrong. It only says that if we do something we cannot prove that it really was right or wrong. If we think we can we are oversimplifying.
 
# The reason is because we cannot work out an ought from an is.
 
The "is" statement is never an "ought" statement. That is what is being claimed.  It is no different from saying a maths statement is never a history statement.  They are different kinds of statements.

 

How does it all work?
 
For example, it is advantageous for us to learn basic mathematics. It does not follow that we ought to learn basic mathematics. That is correct.
 
It is good to learn the basics. To say we ought to learn is to suggest that we agree to be forced if we refuse. An ought that we can ignore with impunity is not an ought at all. Ought implies law. A law needs to punish those who break it or its not a law at all.
 
Hume's Fork is the declaration that all items of knowledge are either, one, based on logic (and definitions for logic is based on a is a), or two, based on observation.
 
Logic and observation cannot show that good means ought to be done or that evil means ought not to be done. Thus an is can never imply an ought. This view is partly correct but over-stated. Observation does show us that things such as feeding babies are for the best.
 
If you believe in being good, you think you observe the good consequences. But you have to admit you only see some of them and some of the seeming consequences are not really consequences of your action. You cannot see the overall picture. The problem is that observation not logic helps us see what is good. But it only helps a bit. But that is not enough to say an is cannot lead to an ought.
 
Even those who deny that "an is can never imply an ought" is a universal rule, must admit that in some things at least that it is true.
 
Here is one case.
 
People will always have their own opinion. There is nothing you can do about it. Even they cannot help what opinions they have. It is said you have a right to your opinion. This is based on an error. The fact that you cannot do something about the opinion somebody does not mean they have a right to their opinion. You can't give people freedom to have their own opinion so they can't have a right to their own opinion.
 
Here is another.
 
We cannot say the mentally-ill killer ought not to kill. Ought does not apply when a person is not under their own control.
 
If our free will is an illusion, then ought is nonsense for it implies that I was not programmed to think I freely did what I did.
 
# Morality comes from feeling. If something feels bad you cannot say this proves that you ought not to do it.
 
Feeling something is bad is not a justification for abstaining from it. In fact, giving in to your feelings is encouraging yourself to be weak in self-discipline. True self-discipline helps you resist your feelings.
 
# The so-called Hume's Law tells you that you cannot get an ought from an is. Even if something is evil that does not mean you ought not to do it.
 
Ought implies that you must do something and if you do not you must suffer punishment for you deserve it. Ought and deserving are inseparable. You cannot deny one without denying the other. Ought is based on the idea that people deserve to be treated for the best. But we have seen that those who teach this do not really believe it for they deny that those who hate the innocent deserve to be hated. So ought is based on dishonesty though it pretends to condemn dishonesty.
 
Ought seeks to force people to do things. That contradicts the teaching that we ought to be allowed to freely do good.
 
Hume was right but if you define ought as force instead of ought as seeing something as beautiful and embracing it.
 
Hume hinted that if you intend to be bad then you ought to do things that help you to be bad. But we have just shown that implication to be wrong.
 
# Morality comes not from reason or logic but from our feelings and our psychological set-up. A moral principle is not an idea but merely is somebody saying how they feel about some action.
 
In other words, reason cannot prove that it is wrong to starve your donkey to death. It is feelings that condemn it.
 
It is better for you to feel you must not starve your donkey than for you to feel it because somebody else, some God or authority, does. Why should it be about somebody else's feeling and not yours? Why would you want to deny that your feelings are as good as God's or anybody else's?
 
# Morality is based on the fact that we are social creatures and seek friendship. It is fellow-feeling.
 
This is a redefinition of the word. Morality is more than that. In the past, the Catholics sought friendship with one another and excluded those of other religions. That does not fit morality as anybody understands it. Getting along with others is about you being you and is not necessarily about you keeping moral rules.
 
Plus Catholicism teaches that you have a duty to go to Mass even if it does nothing socially for people.
 
Plus Catholicism teaches that you have a duty to go to Mass but are not obligated to help the homeless person get a home. It believes in superogation - that not every good deed should be done. If you are going to invent rules and make going to Mass a duty and walking past the homeless okay then you don't deserve respect.


 
CONCLUSION
 
Hume was right if an ought implies compulsion and force. But an ought can imply, "Free and willingly do without fear of punishment this good thing".  Hume was right that an is is not an ought or does not give rise to an ought but there could still be another way it could be done.  A dog does not give rise to a kitten but it does not mean you cannot keep trying for a way to do it. For Hume an is is one class of statement and ought is another.  That is why one can happen without the other.  He agrees that if morality is reasonable it must consider facts such as the weather or whatever for morality is about functioning in the real world. 
 

 
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