In a recent issue of this journal, Jorn Sonderholm presents two main criticisms of my 2008 case for a diachronic view of base property exemplification in metaethics. This essay contends that neither of Sonderholm’s criticisms hit their mark, and that there are additional reasons to adopt a diachronic view of base property exemplification. Thus, the case for a diachronic view of base property exemplification in metaethics is stronger than previously thought.
Terry Horgan and Mark Timmons have recently provided an updated presentation and defense of a metaethical view that they call cognitivist expressivism. Expressivists claim that moral judgments express propositional attitudes that do not represent or describe the external world. Horgan and Timmons agree with this claim, but they also deny the traditional expressivist claim that moral judgments do not express beliefs. On their view, moral judgments are genuine, truth-apt beliefs, thus making their form of expressivism a cognitivist one. In this (...) essay, I argue that Horgan and Timmons have failed to demonstrate that moral judgments express sui generis, nondescriptive content by showing that at least some moral content is descriptive. In addition, I show how the descriptivist can account for those properties that Horgan and Timmons consider distinctive of moral belief. In doing so, I remove one of the expressivist's most important lines of motivation for positing nondescriptive moral content in the first place. At the end of the essay, I briefly sketch a view that I call partial or modest moral realism. (shrink)
In this essay I distinguish between a synchronic view of base property exemplification and a diachronic one. I argue that only a diachronic view of base property exemplification can substantiate a ban on morally mixed worlds. I then argue that one of Robert Mabrito’s recent criticisms of Russ Shafer-Landau’s moral realism fails on either a synchronic or a diachronic view.
The covering-law model of historical explanation works only for explanation of particulars by particulars, or narrative questions and person and action questions. Wisdom suggests three other explanatory theories that may be integral to historical explanation. What are called Challengeable-cover laws, Function-type laws, and Theoretical-type explanations are introduced and their ranges with respect to covering laws described. The first type are non-trivial generalizations the historian forms where existing covering laws are irrelevant or insufficient, for isolated aspects of their subject matter. Function-type (...) explanatory laws are systemic and answer questions basic in the social sciences where they point beyond particulars to general functions of systems. Theory-type explanations, like Mary Douglas' explanation of taboos, involve theoretical entities or unobservables and operate analogously to theoretical explanations in the natural sciences. Historians often condense generalizations into concepts and treat them as particulars. History thus becomes generality-impregnated narrative. (shrink)