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Can we derive ‘ought’ from ‘is’?

I recall that fatefull day in 1959 when I was told in Grade 11 physics class, by our single-world-view, subject-incompetent, and gender-biased  teacher, “Hill, stand up! What are the three states of matter?”

I slowly stood up in front of all my classmates, though briefly, and replied: “It matters. It doesn’t matter. And, what difference does it make?” I received two weeks’ detention.

Of course the answer he was looking for was “solids, liquids, and gases”, but since I didn’t like him, and the feeling was mutual, I thought I’d have my ‘moment in the sun’. My parents weren’t pleased. But I went on to pass the course reasonably well anyway.

“Mattering theory”, espoused by Rebecca Goldstein (2017; Free Inquiry, 37,2) is another matter. “…ought is embedded in the attitudes and emotions that allow us to pursue recognizably human lives.” It as nothing to do with material things as a verb; rather, it’s a position taken within the broad spectrum of ‘morality’ that holds that ‘if it matters to me/us, I/we should do it’. In other words, if an existing state of affairs in human society suggests a moral imperative to act is contained within it, such that a) doing nothing will bring about bad or worse consequences, or b) doing something will bring about good or better consequences – we should opt automatically for doing something. Even if doing something is sacrificial of our own interests.

Situations in which weighed consequences drive actions toward the common good (Kant), matter. Altruism matters. Self-sacrifice, matters. Social movements, matter for the participants, even if violence is sometimes necessary (French Revolution, Communist Revolution, Irish Rebellion, Women’s Rights, etc.).

To the extent that neuroscience and philosophy can converge around ‘free will’ (Free Inquiry, 37, 5), we are able to say that individuals can freely choose from among alternative courses of action. We can derive ‘ought’ from ‘is’ because our actions are the best (in our minds, rightly or wrongly) for all intents and purposes. Since the ‘gap’ between the physiology of our synaptic prods and responses, and what we think and say, is not fully understood, this (as yet) non-determinism leaves us with the social efficacy of talking about ‘free will.’

So, as in my introductory example, choosing to say the wrong thing, that got me into trouble, was a price I was willing to pay for ‘higher’ ends, i.e., ridicule, and classroom levity. I felt I ‘ought’ to have been sarcastic in that time, place and circumstance. It was indeed a golden opportunity. I had derived ought from is, and it made me feel better. I momentarily escaped the social norms of classroom behaviour of my own free will. It mattered to me, and later to my classmates, that I did it.

Deriving ought from is, is a exclusively human experience that couples instinct with intuition, to create moral and practical outcomes that for the most part (so far) act to enhance or preserve the species. Ignorance is the arch-enemy of such derivations.


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U.S. Allies Trust Vladimir Putin More Than President Trump ‘to Do the Right Thing’: Survey — TIME Trump, with his boorish, nonsensical and self-ingratiating performances everywhere, creates anxiety in world leaders from one day to the next.

(WASHINGTON) — Vladimir Putin is more trusted than Donald Trump to do the right thing for the world among citizens of numerous U.S. allies, including Japan, South Korea and seven European NATO members, according to a survey released Wednesday. Both leaders scored poorly overall in the poll by the respected Pew Research Center. But Trump’s…

via U.S. Allies Trust Vladimir Putin More Than President Trump ‘to Do the Right Thing’: Survey — TIME

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Terry and Fiddle.

Owner of “Hill of Canada Music”, selling stringed instruments, repairs, sheet music and seminars. Plus special order handmade violins.

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Just marvelous!

While the nation’s capitol reeled on Monday from former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci’s exit, few took the news harder than Stephen Colbert. “I come to you tonight a broken man,” Colbert told the audience on his “Late Show” Monday evening. “Because just this afternoon I was shocked by this breaking ‘nooch.’” The news,…

via ‘I Come to You Tonight a Broken Man.’ Stephen Colbert Sings Farewell to Anthony Scaramucci — TIME

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The analogy of an implosion of political morality, rendering you all alone with your delusions, incapable of democratic leadership.

As the special counsel investigation swirls around President Trump, the Washington Post reported that he’s trying to learn about his pardoning powers. But could he actually pardon himself? Probably not. The Constitution says that the president “shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”…

via Can President Trump Pardon Himself? — TIME

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Nero Played While Rome Burned: Fiddler on the Ground

Opposition forces in Venezuela are calling for a new wave of nationwide strikes this week, while President Nicolas Maduro insists on pressing ahead with an electoral process that detractors say would cementF his grip on power. This follows another round of skirmishes between protestors and government security Saturday in Caracas, during which masked demonstrators threw…

via Venezuela’s Opposition, and Its Famous Protesting Violinist, Vow to Fight On — TIME

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Corporation Trump desperately tries to salvage bad press. But a hedge fund executive as communications director??? Plutocrats are distancing phenomena from the average American, and have rigid values of self-interest upon self-interest. Once Scrooge ‘found the light’ he became a superb communications specialist. Trump and his cronies should take heed.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer abruptly resigned Friday morning after President Donald Trump named former New York hedge fund executive Anthony Scaramucci as his communications director. Spicer, who had stepped back from most day-to-day press briefings in expectation of taking on a larger role in overseeing the communications shop, viewed his role diminished by…

via Sean Spicer Resigns as White House Press Secretary — TIME

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Proof Positive! ™

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When will the Trump Administration wake up and assess the damage the President has caused? Regrettably, Ethics Directors have no legislative power over abusers of the law and social norms. They are advice-givers only, and their effectiveness can only be measured by the opinions they can sway in high places. Shaub has decided he will be much more effective from the ‘outside’. More power to him.

Walter Shaub, director of the US Office of Government Ethics, who has pushed the Trump administration for months to comply with historical norms for a president and his cabinet, seems to finally have had enough. The career civil servant, who worked in the office under three presidential administrations, resigned unexpectedly today (July 6), six months…

via The US ethics czar quit so he can talk about the good, bad, and ugly in government — Quartz

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