Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 77 (2):334 - 358 (2008)
|Abstract||Theoretical reasoning aims to expand our knowledge of how the world is. Practical reasoning aims to expand our knowledge of how to behave in the world as we know it to be. Although this distinction between theoretical and practical reasoning is notoriously central to normative ethical theorizing, its significance has, I think, been underappreciated and misconstrued in the metaethical debate about realism. I suspect that this is the result of two aspects of that debate: (a) the realism debate has been pursued (mostly) by investigating the appropriate semantic account of ethical statements, (b) all of the prominent semantic accounts on offer, both realist and irrealist, take representation rather than inference as their master concept, which leaves the distinction between ways of reasoning as explanatorily posterior to the distinction between representational and nonrepresentational items. Aspect (a) is not obviously beyond reproach—perhaps the reality of moral properties should be investigated by strictly metaphysical rather than semantic methods. However, for the purposes of this paper, I shall not reproach the methodological mindset that semanticizes the realism debate in metaethics. This is because it is by working within this mindset that I think we have best hope of correcting the mistake I see embodied in aspect (b) and gaining a fuller appreciation of the significance of the distinction between theoretical and practical reasoning to the realism debate. Thus, my overarching aim in this paper is to begin to explore what happens to that debate when we take inference rather than representation as our master concept in philosophical semantics. More specifically, I want to consider the fortunes of the most prominent form of irrealism—expressivism—and urge that a new form of this position, which takes the distinction between theoretical and practical reasoning (rather than the distinction between representational and nonrepresentational mental states) as basic, has the resources to address one of the main objections threatening contemporary versions of the view.|
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