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The Smuggler's Fallacy

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David Hume has warned us not to endeavor to derive an “ought” from an “is” (1990, 469–70), reprimanding those who attempt to draw value judgments from empirical facts. But Judith Jarvis Thomson refuses to accept that values and facts are logically disjoint in this manner, primarily because of her worry that such a partition of our moral values from the “facts” will place a grave limitation on any ethical system, namely, that its claims apparently cannot be proven. Consequently, Thomson is on the lookout for some provably true facts that can be used, contra Hume, to draw conclusions about moral values. Thomson begins by rejecting all generalist conceptions of the good (specifically, the utilitarian's identification of the good with pleasure) and proceeds to fracture the good into various kinds of “goodness in a way,” hoping to produce by this disintegration some moral facts that can be used to set ethics on an objective foundation. But I will argue that Thomson's so-called objective facts are actually nothing but disguised moral claims, and that in attempting to sidestep the classic fallacy identified by Hume, she has blundered into another pitfall—the Smuggler's Fallacy, the offense of concealing her moral conclusions inside the premises of her argument.
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Keywords: Smuggler's Fallacy; Thomson; facts; goodness in a way; utilitarianism; values

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: East Carolina University, Greenville, USA

Publication date: 01 October 2004

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