The fact that you can derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ is manifestly wrong, just logically wrong. Facts in — facts out, values in — values out. By rules of deductive logic you can’t derive conclusions about properties that did not initially appear in your premises. Deriving an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ is like adding two even numbers and obtaining an odd one. There is no description of the universe which contains oughts, descriptions of the universe only contain facts. So oughts stay on the one side, facts stay on the other. Right? Well, not so fast.

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David Hume, the guy who started it all


Even on Hume’s own terms, you can’t derive an ought from an is without making further assumptions. If you make further assumptions, you can derive as many oughts as you please. So, for example, you may find it reasonable to assume that you should avoid unnecessary pain. Granted this, you can then logically derive that you ought not stick your hands in boiling water without having a good reason for doing so. …

Mundane virtual worlds

Our everyday lives do not usually seem incredible to us. Most of the time we follow familiar routines, meet people we already know, do things we have done before. Mundane is the word, this much is clear. What may be less clear though is that this world of everyday mundane things is, in a sense, a virtual world. It consists of things that we made labels for and imbued with properties that matter to us, which is at best just a tiny subset of properties that stuff out there actually has and at worst just plain nonsense. …


The Blind Watchmaker is the title of Richard Dawkins’ 1986 book where he explains how the process of natural selection gives rise to living beings which appear to have been designed. Dawkins refers to the watchmaker analogy made famous by William Paley in his 1802 book Natural Theology. Writing long before Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, Paley held that the complexity of living organisms was evidence for the existence of a divine creator. He vividly made his point by drawing an analogy — the existence of an intricately designed watch compels belief in a conscious intentional watchmaker in the same way as existence of complex life forms compels belief in God. …


Valery Latyshev

Mathematician, philosopher, entrepreneur.

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