On the (in)significance of Hume’s Law

Philosophical Studies 179 (2):633-653 (2022)
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Hume’s Law that one cannot derive an “ought” from an “is” has often been deemed to bear a significance that extends far beyond logic. Repeatedly, it has been invoked as posing a serious threat to views about normativity: naturalism in metaethics and positivism in jurisprudence. Yet in recent years, a puzzling asymmetry has emerged: while the view that Hume’s Law threatens naturalism has largely been abandoned (due mostly to Pigden’s work, see e.g. Pigden 1989), the thought that Hume’s Law is a serious challenge to positivism has only grown in prominence. Our main aim is to establish that Hume’s Law is not a threat to positivism or naturalism. First, we connect extensive, but unfortunately siloed, discussions of this issue. Second, we show that Hume’s Law is not a serious threat to naturalism or positivism, for the gap between logic and such theses is very hard to bridge in a way that would make Hume’s Law able to bear this significance. Finally, we emphasize an implication of our discussion: it undermines one of the main “dialectical tributaries” in jurisprudence (Toh 2018).



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Author Profiles

Samuele Chilovi
Institute of Philosophy, CSIC
Daniel Wodak
University of Pennsylvania

Citations of this work

The Explanatory Demands of Grounding in Law.Samuele Chilovi & George Pavlakos - 2022 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 103 (4):900-933.
John Austin.Brian Bix - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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Taking Morality Seriously: A Defense of Robust Realism.David Enoch - 2011 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
Metaphysical grounding.Ricki Bliss & Kelly Trogdon - 2021 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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Consciousness and Experience.William G. Lycan - 1996 - Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

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