[UPDATE: Clarified that choosing what-ought-to-be from what-can-be is based on our knowledge of ourselves, not on our knowledge of good and evil]
“I know you won't believe me, but the highest form of Human Excellence is to question oneself and others.
“For you see what our discussions are all about – and is there anything about which a man of even small intelligence would be more serious than this -- what is the way we ought to live?
The infamous IS-OUGHT gap -- how do we go from the way something IS to the way [we think] it OUGHT to be? David Hume, like many others before and after him, would see a gap in there, leading them to question our ethics, our science, our ability to choose consciously, and the very existence of the consciousness itself -- thus pitching themselves head-on against, say, Socrates, who was adamant about our capacity to know good from evil.
I suggest that, indeed, what is often perceived as a gap, as void, is, in fact, the very quality that makes us human.
“Wisdom begins in wonder.
That quality is in our unique ability to ask and explain why.1 With it, we can go beyond what is and explain, through logic and reason, why it is so,2 and, by that measure, how it could have been otherwise,3 thus, giving us our options (what-can-be).
“To understand is to be free.
-- Baruch Spinoza
Knowing "what is necessary", what is an option and what isn't, gives us freedom-as-the-agency to choose among options available. And it is the latter choice that, depending on our knowledge of ourselves, gives us the ought part -- our opinion on how things should be.
Note that the chain above is rational,4 all the way through, from "is" to "ought". Free from normative statements, it makes "ought" descriptive as well.
But it makes no sense at all!
‟The Truth holds always, but humans,
always time and again, prove unable to ever understand it, both before hearing it and when they have first heard it.
The "closing the gap" story above contrasts two distinct kinds of curiosity -- one is of a cat, the other only humans can have. The cat's curiosity is about WHAT-IS (and we have plenty of that too). The second kind -- the WHY-IS curiosity -- is, however, optional. A 4 y.o. can easily ask 100s of why's in a single day -- until she starts getting cordially invited to can it. So that's why.
“The learning of many things does not teach understanding; otherwise, it would have taught Hesiod and Pythagoras, and again Xenophanes and Hecataeus.
Human nature, however, is harder to tame. Very often it means a person would long for understanding, but unable to express it as WHY-IS, would keep falling back to WHAT-IS, looking for new experiences instead... like catching that travel bug. “Beware the barrenness of a busy life,” however, as Socrates would put it. No matter how many experiences, no matter how amazing, they won't quench that empty feeling in your heart. What's missing is your human soul, your conscious, rational Self. There's hardly a substitute for that, but there is hope.
‟To find your Self, think for yourself.5 -- Socrates, who else.
1a e.g. why we -- the adults -- permit bullying in schools, despite being physically stronger than our adversaries and enjoying a numerical advantage over them?.. or what's up with UBI? -- it's been 50 years, what are we waiting for? and why we accept pieces of paper for... yes, lemming fallacy, but still?..
1b It has been proposed before that the is-ought gap can be closed with "if", but that begs for the question, obviously.
2 An explanation is a mental-model (not to be confused with "mental-image", a.k.a. "empirical concept" in kantoneese, a.k.a platonic forms), also scientific theory (also platonic particulars as a caricature of it). A mental-model is a
computer mental simulation of that particular aspect of the objective reality. We can only understand something if we have a mental model for it (nothing like Kant's "understanding", which means having an idea of something). Connecting individual models (indicated by 💡 going off) creates a more comprehensive simulation of reality, a.k.a. the map, not the territory. Stitching it is a slow process till collected puzzle pieces reach the critical mass and your whole world lights up as all pieces fall into place, and you realize that “Happiness is a virtue, not a reward. -- Baruch Spinoza
3 No other species on Earth have evolved that capacity. Allowing for knowledge sharing, it proved to be invaluable. Before then, an individual had only its own experiences to rely on. With knowledge sharing, experiences by one can be shared with literally everyone else.
All of us benefit from lessons learned by one of us, from that person's discoveries, insights, and inventions, as if it were our own discoveries, our own lessons.
4 "Rational" means explainable.
5 ... rather than being cool with your subconsciousness speaking "your thoughts" to you. Consciousness is doing the thinking.