The Inevitability of Death: Going from an Is to an Ought

Heidi Savage
State University of New York at Geneseo
Since Hume, many ethicists have assumed that inferring normative claims from descriptive claims is fallacious. Some classic examples that illustrate this fact are those in which everyone commits some act, but we do not therefore conclude that it is the right thing to do. Everyone may jump off a bridge, asserts your mother, but that does not entail that you should. However, not all such claims illustrate this. In fact, some of them illustrate precisely the opposite claim. For example, consider the person who repeatedly bemoans the unfairness or sadness of dying, and who is often faced with the response that this happens to everyone. What should she do? One plausible response is that she should accept the fact that this occurs and make her peace with it, an unequivocally normative directive. This example, then, is a prima facie counterexample to the infamous gap between is-claims and ought-claims.
Keywords is-ought gap  ought implies can
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