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Is-Ought Problem

The is-ought problem in ethics arises from the is-ought, fact-value distinction. It is the problem of moving from the factual to the normative, of obtaining a prescriptive claim from a set of descriptive claims. A descriptive claim asserts some fact about the world such as “One third of students have cheated on a college assignment” (a claim that is either true or false), while a normative claim makes a moral judgment about how things ought to be (e.g., “Cheating is wrong”).

The problem was first raised by David Hume in the 18th century; he pointed out that while many ethicists make claims about what ought to be solely on the basis of what is, there is a big difference between the two, and writers make an ...

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