The truth in ecumenical expressivism

In David Sobel & Steven Wall (eds.), Reasons for Action. Cambridge University Press (2009)
Abstract
Early expressivists, such as A.J. Ayer, argued that normative utterances are not truth-apt, and many found this striking claim implausible. After all, ordinary speakers are perfectly happy to ascribe truth and falsity to normative assertions. It is hard to believe that competent speakers could be so wrong about the meanings of their own language, particularly as these meanings are fixed by the conventions implicit in their own linguistic behavior. Later expressivists therefore tried to arrange a marriage between expressivism and the truth-aptness of normative discourse. Like many arranged marriages, this has not been an entirely happy one. In particular, the marriage has seemed to depend on so-called deflationist theories of truth, and these may well turn out to provide at best a shaky foundation for any marriage. Before advising the parties to file for divorce, though, we should first see whether expressivism itself has not been misunderstood. I argue that the marriage of expressivism to the truth-aptness of normative discourse can indeed be saved, though only in the context of a version of expressivism I call “Ecumenical Expressivism.”.
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