Fact-Value Distinction

The fact-value distinction is generally summarized as the distinction between what is, or descriptive claims (the realm of facts), and what ought to be, or normative/prescriptive claims (the realm of values). Even though the issue of the fact-value distinction is closely intertwined with the is-ought distinction—and often the two are conflated in discussions, arguments, or positions—they are not identical. It can be held, for example, that values are natural facts or that normative propositions are factual or that normative claims assert nothing about real values.

The issue of the fact-value distinction came to the forefront, during the Enlightenment, with David Hume's argument that normative claims about values or what ought to be cannot be derived from descriptive claims about facts or what is. Hume argued that ...

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