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“Ought” as a speech-act


Justification of moral judgments subsists as one of the recalcitrant question marks of philosophy; are they somehow unlike the so-called factual judgments; do they have a cognitive value; what, if anything, could possibly justify them despite the assumed chasm between facts on one hand and values, on the other? I believe it is, at least in the early modern era, the Humean legacy in ethics to have eyes for the naturalistic fallacy and sometimes despair over the seemingly inexplicable bridge between “Is” and “Ought.” I shall investigate whether Nietzsche has a solution of his own to the problem and if he has, whether it is indeed a Humean one.

In what follows I shall try to produce a brief exegetical reading of Nietzsche’s main texts to reflect on the parallels between moral critique of Nietzsche and Hume’s epistemic understanding of moral judgments. With this aim, I shall connect Hume’s insights with Nietzsche’s related remarks, dwelling on three books by Nietzsche mainly: Human, All Too Human, Beyond Good and Evil, and Will to Power.

Nietzsche avers that causality of free will is no more than an associative feeling to connect an idea with another. In sum, the inferential guide that links “Is” with “Ought” is based on a social need to hold individuals morally responsible on the basis of their behaviour. Therefore the link traditionally provided between the I-sentences and the O-sentences is not a metaphysically necessary one, as implied by the causality of free will, but an outcome of societal forces that attribute free will to human beings.In other words, the relation between the I-sentences and the O-sentences is not metaphysically necessary according to the transcendental law of morality, but socio-political laws that changes empirical beings into moral beings. Furthermore, he claims that there are diverse canons of morality that apply to diverse characters.To put it into modern jargon, the moral judgments and arguments can be seen as performative statements, since they do not express the relations among facts which are independently and intrinsically moral, but acts on and constitute them as moral and the persons those facts are attributed to morally responsible.I argue that the O-sentences comprise a sub-set of speech-acts. They do not only express moral facts, but also constitute them as moral.


Ought, speech-act, humean one, sub-set