Moving from an "is" statement to an "ought" statement.
#1
I'll preface this by mentioning that I am not a philosopher, so if there is an obvious answer here, please indulge me.

Anyway, I believe it was Hume who first pointed out the primary deficiency of natural law philosophy - deriving "ought" statements from "is" statements.  How does one validly move from an "is" to an "ought"?  I think that if it is valid to move from "is" to "ought," then many of the conclusions of natural law philosophy seem inescapable.  But can one even do that in the first place?

Is there a good answer to this?
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#2
(05-04-2010, 01:51 AM)aquinas138 Wrote: I'll preface this by mentioning that I am not a philosopher, so if there is an obvious answer here, please indulge me.

Anyway, I believe it was Hume who first pointed out the primary deficiency of natural law philosophy - deriving "ought" statements from "is" statements.  How does one validly move from an "is" to an "ought"?  I think that if it is valid to move from "is" to "ought," then many of the conclusions of natural law philosophy seem inescapable.  But can one even do that in the first place?

Is there a good answer to this?

This is a question I've struggled to understand too, particularly in relation to the Church's teaching against contraception. Sex is procreative to sex ought to be procreative.
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#3
Many times one cannot move from an "is" to an "ought".  For example, divorce is considered acceptable in our culture.  This is no way implies that it ought to be.  Natural Law is considering those cases in which the "is" reveals God's will for creation.  It is using reason to deduce information about God.  So there are limits to when "is" can be "ought"
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#4
(05-04-2010, 10:02 AM)JayneK Wrote: Many times one cannot move from an "is" to an "ought".  For example, divorce is considered acceptable in our culture.  This is no way implies that it ought to be.  Natural Law is considering those cases in which the "is" reveals God's will for creation.  It is using reason to deduce information about God.   So there are limits to when "is" can be "ought"

What are those limits, then?

it seems that divorce is a different thing.  Divorce could be described as a particular action humans do, and not something that is part of nature - indeed it would be described as contra naturam.  The procreative aspect of sexual intercourse, on the other hand, is part of its nature - whether one believes in God or in an atheistic evolutionary system, it's obvious sex exists for procreation. 

My concern is that the natural law position basically starts from the premise that the primary end of sexual intercourse is procreation, and that therefore sex must always be open to procreation.  Though I agree with the content of the conclusion out of obedience to the Church, I'm not intellectually convinced by the reasoning. 

Furthermore on the topic of sex, since that comes up so often in these types of discussions, is it actually the same thing to say "sex is for procreation, therefore sex ought to be for procreation" as it is to say "sex is for procreation, therefore sex ought to be open to procreation"?  They seem different, and the latter seems like what is generally presented as the Church's position, though I'm open to correction.

Can anyone recommend a primer or something on natural law philosophy?  I think if I were to get a better grasp of the basics, I might be able to clarify my problem.
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#5
I've always been puzzled by Hume's objection to moving from "is" to "ought," actually. It seems quite natural, which becomes clear (to me, anyway) when we're talking about artifacts:

Descriptive: A chair is a piece of furniture for people to sit on.
Normative: A chair ought to support the weight of a person sitting on it.

Also, bodily organs:

D: A heart is an organ that pumps blood through the body.
N: A heart ought to pump blood through the body efficiently.

Or, for types of people, or jobs:

D: A flautist plays the flute.
N: A flautist ought to play the flute well.

The "ought" statements indicate the quality or qualities that make the thing described a good or excellent member of its type. Because a wolf is an animal that hunts in packs, a wolf ought to hunt in packs. A "lone wolf" that freeloads off the hunting of its brethren is a bad wolf, or is bad at being a wolf.

Does that bear on the question you were asking at all?
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#6
(05-04-2010, 07:39 PM)Antonius Block Wrote: Descriptive: A chair is a piece of furniture for people to sit on.
Normative: A chair ought to support the weight of a person sitting on it.

But this seems to be an imperfect analogy.  Natural law philosophy and the teaching of the Church insist that reproduction must always be possible when engaging in sexual intercourse; a use of the sexual faculties that frustrates this purpose is immoral.  But a chair might be used to block a door from opening, positioned in such a way that a person could not sit on it.  This would frustrate the primary end of the chair, but no one would argue that this is an intrinsically immoral use of the chair.  I think the other examples have similar problems.
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#7
(05-04-2010, 07:56 PM)aquinas138 Wrote:
(05-04-2010, 07:39 PM)Antonius Block Wrote: Descriptive: A chair is a piece of furniture for people to sit on.
Normative: A chair ought to support the weight of a person sitting on it.

But this seems to be an imperfect analogy.  Natural law philosophy and the teaching of the Church insist that reproduction must always be possible when engaging in sexual intercourse; a use of the sexual faculties that frustrates this purpose is immoral.  But a chair might be used to block a door from opening, positioned in such a way that a person could not sit on it.  This would frustrate the primary end of the chair, but no one would argue that this is an intrinsically immoral use of the chair.  I think the other examples have similar problems.

OK. I wasn't thinking specifically of the sex example at this point. I'll have to give it some more thought. Here are some ideas that come to mind as I sit here, though.

With regard to the chair (and I think this will be relevant to the sex point), when it is used to block a door from opening in the manner you describe, it is no longer functioning as a chair, but as an impediment. It is no longer acting in a chair-like way, so the standards used to describe and evaluate its action need to change. When it is blocking a door, it is being a terrible chair (no one can sit on it), but being a good impediment.

With regard to sexuality, I think it's important to remember that we're only talking about human sexuality. Some animals have non-procreative sex and masturbate and all kinds of nasty things, but they're plainly not morally culpable for doing so. Humans, on the other hand, due to our rational faculties, have an obligation to behave in distinctively human ways. So, is having non-procreative sex distinctively human, or allow us to function in ways that are essentially human? Or does it impede our ability to live flourishing human lives?

Sorry I can't flesh this idea out more right now. Gotta eat, then on to my canon law class!
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#8
Don't know if I'm understanding this.  But it appears obvious:

Sex is for procreation.

Sex "ought" to be for procreation.

The reason is that if you don't follow this, then your will face a contradiction, which will cause destruction.

Heart example: The application of "ought" is taking notice if the heart doesn't circulate enough blood.  It will save your life.  If you ignore A is A, then you will destroy yourself.
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