Adviser: Professor Stefan Baumrin In the first chapter I introduce the distinction between metaethics and normative ethics and argue that metaethics, properly conceived, is a part of cognitive science. For example, the debate between rationalism and sentimentalism can be informed by recent empirical work in psychology and the neurosciences. In the second chapter I argue that the traditional view that one’s theory of semantics determines what one’s theory of justification must be is mistaken. Though it has been the case that (...) there are ‘typical’ combinations of semantic and justificational theories this is by no means forced on one. In the third chapter I examine two current kinds of expressivism; that of Blackburn and Copp. Each gives us an example of different combinations of semantic and justificatory theory. In Blackburn’s case he combines a use theory of meaning with a classic emotivist theory of justification, In Copp’s case it is a neo-Gricean philosophy of language with a realist’s theory of justification. I find both of these wanting as they ultimately collapse into relativistic subjectivism. In the fourth and fifth chapter I turn to developing Emotive Realism. The basic idea behind this view is that when someone says ‘x is wrong/right’ that person has (a) expressed a moral emotion about x and at the same time (b) expressed the belief that the emotion in (a) is the correct one to have. The belief expressed in (b) will be true or false depending on one’s theory of justification. In the fourth chapter I argue that we need separate semantic theories for thoughts and sentences. In the fifth chapter I fill in the details of Emotive Realism as I see it. (shrink)
Abstract: A pervasive and persistent subjectivist slogan concerning the nature of right action, uttered most commonly by new students of moral philosophy, is stated and its absurdity exposed. The sources of its pervasiveness and persistence are probed, and are found to lie in the confusion of an uncontroversial conceptual feature of morality with a superficially similar over?estimation of the moral status of the individual conscience. The non?primacy of the conscience is briefly demonstrated; and it is suggested that exposure of the (...) sources of the slogan frees one from the tendency to be taken in by it. (shrink)
Dans cet article, nous proposons de montrer expérimentalement que le "sens commun" n'est en matière moral ni complètement objectiviste ni complètement relativiste, mais qu'un même individu peut être tantôt objectiviste tantôt relativiste. De même, nous montrons que les jugements de goût portant sur le prédicat "dégoûtant" ne sont pas toujours relativiste mais peuvent varier selon le contexte entre objectivisme et relativisme.
Subjectivism about well-being holds that ϕ is intrinsically good for x if and only if, and to the extent that, ϕ is valued, under the proper conditions, by x. Given this statement of the view, there is room for intramural dissent among subjectivists. One important source of dispute is the phrase “under the proper conditions”: Should the proper conditions of valuing be actual or idealized? What sort of idealization is appropriate? And so forth. Though these concerns are of the first (...) importance, this essay focuses on a second source of dispute. As stated, subjectivists must account for what it means for an individual x to value ϕ under any conditions. Though there has been some disagreement, most subjectivists hold that x values ϕ if and only if x desires ϕ. This essay argues that subjectivists have erred in accepting a desiderative theory of valuing. Instead, it argues that subjectivists should hold that x values ϕ to the extent that x judges or believes that ϕ is good for x. The resulting “judgment subjectivism” is intuitively superior to, and maintains important structural advantages over, its desiderative rival. (shrink)
Subjectivism about normativity (SN) is the view that norms are never intrinsic to things but are instead always imposed from without. After clarifying what SN is, I argue against it on the basis of its implications concerning intentionality. Intentional states with the mind-to-world direction of fit are essentially norm-subservient, i.e., essentially subject to norms such as truth, coherence, and the like. SN implies that nothing is intrinsically an intentional state of the mind-to-world sort: its being such a state is only (...) a status relative to the imposition of a norm. If one rejects this view of mind-to-world states, then one has grounds for rejecting SN itself. If one accepts it, an infinite regress arises that makes it impossible for norms to be imposed, which means that SN has undermined itself. (shrink)
There is a debate in normative ethics about whether or not our moral obligations depend solely on either our evidence concerning, or our beliefs about, the world. Subjectivists maintain that they do and objectivists maintain that they do not. I shall offer some arguments in support of objectivism and respond to the strongest argument for subjectivism. I shall also briefly consider the significance of my discussion to the debate over whether one’s future voluntary actions are relevant to one’s current moral (...) obligations. (shrink)
It is widely held that it is only contingent that the sensation of pain is disliked, and that when pain is not disliked, it is not intrinsically bad. This conjunction of claims has often been taken to support a subjectivist view of pain’s badness on which pain is bad simply because it is the object of a negative attitude and not because of what it feels like. In this paper, I argue that accepting this conjunction of claims does not commit (...) us to this subjectivist view. They are compatible with an objectivist view of pain’s badness, and with thinking that this badness is due to its phenomenal quality. Indeed, I argue that once the full range of options is in view, the most plausible account of pain is incompatible with subjectivism about value. (shrink)
One worry about metaethical expressivism is that it reduces to some form of subjectivism. This worry is enforced by subjectivists who argue that subjectivism can explain certain phenomena thought to support expressivism equally well. Recently, authors have started to suggest that subjectivism can take away what has often been seen as expressivism's biggest explanatory advantage, namely expressivism's ability to explain the possibility of moral disagreement. In this paper, I will give a response to an argument recently given by Frank Jackson (...) to this conclusion that will show that it is false that subjectivism could explain disagreement as well as expressivism. (shrink)
The relativist contends that one has a duty to do something if and only if one's society holds that one does. The subjectivist maintains that one has a duty to do something if and only if one believes that one does. The objectivist argues that men have objective duties which are sometimes independent of what either they or their societies believe they are. My object is to indicate what seem to be some obvious, Yet fatal, Objections to relativism and subjectivism, (...) And to show how objectivists can take account of certain of the insights of relativists and subjectivists. I seek to show that relativists and subjectivists misunderstand the import of their insights, And that it is because of this that they suppose that these insights provide support for relativism or subjectivism when in fact they do not, And can be, Indeed need to be, Incorporated into a sound objectivist position. (shrink)
The central claim of this essay is that Habermas' program of discourse ethics fails to establish the necessary immanent connection between the universality of discourse ethics and the quasi-transcendentalism, which is supposed to provide its ground. Habermas' attempt to avoid the spectre of subjectivism leads him to develop an understanding of universalism that hinges on a critical error, the confusion of subjectivity with ethical substance. Using Castoriadis' theory of the imagination to illuminate this failure, I demonstrate the way (...) in which Habermas' moral theory of discourse inadvertently harbours a moral-imaginary horizon, a pre-political kernel which undercuts its capacity to serve as a universalist ethic. (shrink)
In this article I argue that ethical subjectivism does not lead to relativism, If that is defined as the theory that men do genuinely differ in their ultimate moral judgments, And that there are no grounds for preferring one such moral judgment to another. On the contrary, This view is inconsistent with subjectivism, Since it rests on the objective truth of some such premise as that one ought not to condemn another simply because his tastes are different from one's own.
Metaethical expressivists claim that we can explain what moral words like ‘wrong’ mean without having to know what they are about – but rather by saying what it is to think that something is wrong – namely, to disapprove of it. Given the close connection between expressivists’ theory of the meaning of moral words and our attitudes of approval and disapproval, expressivists have had a hard time shaking the intuitive charge that theirs is an objectionably subjectivist or mind-dependent view of (...) morality. Expressivism, critics have charged over and again, is committed to the view that what is wrong somehow depends on or at least correlates with the attitudes that we have toward it. Arguments to this effect are sometimes subtle, and sometimes rely on fancy machinery, but they all share a common flaw. They all fail to respect the fundamental idea of expressivism: that ‘stealing is wrong’ bears exactly the same relationship to disapproval of stealing as ‘grass is green’ bears to the belief that grass is green. In this paper I rehearse the motivations for the fundamental idea of expressivism and show how the arguments of Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit , Russ Shafer-Landau , Jussi Suikkanen , and Christopher Peacocke  all fail on this same rock. In part 1 I’ll rehearse the motivation for expressivism – a motivation which directly explains why it does not have subjectivist consequences. Then in each of parts 2-5 I’ll illustrate how each of Jackson and Pettit’s, Peacocke’s, Shafer-Landau’s, and Suikkanen’s arguments work, respectively, and why each of them fails to respect the fundamental parity at the heart of expressivism. Though others have tried before me to explain why expressivism is not committed to any kind of subjectivism or mind-dependence – prominently including Blackburn , , Horgan and Timmons , and, in response to Pettit and Jackson, Dreier  and Smith and Stoljar , the explanation offered in this article is distinguished by its scope and generality.. (shrink)
This paper elaborates and defends an expressivist account of the claims of mind-independence embedded in ordinary moral thought. In response to objections from Zangwill and Jenkins it is argued that the expressivist 'internal reading' of such claims is compatible with their conceptual status and that the only 'external reading' available doesn't commit expressivisists to any sort of subjectivism. In the process a 'commitment-theoretic' account of the semantics of conditionals and negations is defended.
Jackson and Pettit argue that expressivism in metaethics collapses into subjectivism. A sincere utterer of a moral claim must believe that she has certain attitudes to be expressed. The truth-conditions of that belief then allegedly provide truth-conditions also for the moral utterance. Thus, the expressivist cannot deny that moral claims have subjectivist truth-conditions. Critics have argued that this argument fails as stated. I try to show that expressivism does have subjectivist repercussions in a way that avoids the problems of the (...) Jackson-Pettit argument. My argument, based on the norms for asserting moral sentences, attempts to tie expressivists to a more modest form of subjectivism than the previous arguments. (shrink)
Abstract Previous conceptual analyses and empirical research concerning moral development and moral education have almost completely failed to take into account the distinction between objectivist and subjectivist positions on the nature of morality. This paper begins by outlining the essential elements in the two positions and pointing to the significance of the issue for the study of moral thought and for the discussion of moral maturity. Reference is briefly made to problems in current theories arising from the neglect of the (...) distinction. Empirical evidence is then presented in order to document the importance of this factor in moral thought, with special reference to the dominance of the objectivist position and the correlates of objectivism. Evidence on developmental trends in objectivism is discussed, pointing to the need for extension of Piaget's theory. Implications for the ?regression? phenomenon are drawn and the significance of subjectivist views for the problem of moral education is considered. ? This paper collects together and presents in a more compact form some of the themes argued at length in Dimensions of Moral Thought, Sydney, University of New South Wales Press, 1982. (shrink)