Journal of Philosophy 112 (4):193-210 (2015)

Daniel J. Singer
University of Pennsylvania
The is-ought gap is Hume’s claim that we can’t get an ‘ought’ from just ‘is’s. Prior (“The Autonomy of Ethics,” 1960) showed that its most straightforward formulation, a staple of introductory philosophy classes, fails. Many authors attempt to resurrect the claim by restricting its domain syntactically or by reformulating it in terms of models of deontic logic. Those attempts prove to be complex, incomplete, or incorrect. I provide a simple reformulation of the is-ought gap that closely fits Hume’s description of it. My formulation of the gap avoids the proposed counterexamples from Prior and offers a natural explanation of why they seem compelling. Moreover, I show that my formulation of the gap is guaranteed by standard theories of the semantics of normative terms, and that provides a more general reason to accept it.
Keywords Autonomy of Ethics  Is-Ought Gap  Hume  Metaethics  Normative Semantics
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DOI 10.5840/jphil2015112412
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References found in this work BETA

Logic and the Autonomy of Ethics.Charles R. Pigden - 1989 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 67 (2):127 – 151.

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Citations of this work BETA

Truthmaking and the is–Ought Gap.Kit Fine - 2018 - Synthese 198 (2):887-914.
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Model Theory, Hume's Dictum, and the Priority of Ethical Theory.Jack Woods & Barry Maguire - 2017 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 4:419-440.
Ruling Out Solutions to Prior's Dilemma for Hume's Law.Aaron Wolf - 2020 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 9 (2):84-93.

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