Barriers to Consequence

July 2010

(with Gillian Russell) “Barriers to Consequence,” p. 243–259 in Hume on Is and Ought, edited by Charles Pigden, Palgrave, 2010.

In this paper we show how the formal counterexamples to Hume’s Law (to the effect that you cannot derive a properly moral statement from properly descriptive statements) are of a piece with formal counterexample to other, plausible “inferential barrier theses”. We use this fact to motivate a uniform treatment of barrier theses which is immune from formal counterexample. We provide a uniform semantic representation of barrier theses which has applications in the case of what we call “Russell’s Law” (you can’t derive a universal from particulars) and “Hume’s Second Law” (you can’t derive a statement about the future from statements about the past). We then finally apply these results to formal treatments of deontic logic to show how to avoid formal counterexamples to Hume’s Law in a plausible and motivated manner.

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I’m Greg Restall, and this is my personal website. I am the Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews. I like thinking about – and helping other people think about – logic and philosophy and the many different ways they can inform each other.


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