This paper is a reply to Michael Lynch's "Truth, Value and Epistemic Expressivism" in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research for 2009. It argues that Lynch's argument against expressivism fails because of an ambiguity in the employed notion of an 'epistemically disengaged standpoint'.
I offer a new theory of faultless disagreement, according to which truth is absolute (non-relative) but can still be non-objective. What's relative is truth-aptness: a sentence like ‘Vegemite is tasty’ (V) can be truth-accessible and bivalent in one context but not in another. Within a context in which V fails to be bivalent, we can affirm that there is no issue of truth or falsity about V, still disputants, affirming and denying V, were not at fault, since, in their context (...) of assertion V was bivalent. This theory requires a theory of assertion that is a form of cognitive expressivism. (shrink)
Consider the claim that openmindedness is an epistemic virtue, the claim that true belief is epistemically valuable, and the claim that one epistemically ought to cleave to one’s evidence. These are examples of what I’ll call “epistemic discourse.” In this paper I’ll propose and defend a view called “convention-relativism about epistemic discourse.” In particular, I’ll argue that convention-relativismis superior to its main rival, expressivism about epistemic discourse. Expressivism and conventionalism both jibe with anti-realism about epistemic normativity, which is (...) motivated by appeal to philosophical naturalism (§1). Convention-relativism says that epistemic discourse describes how things stands relative to a conventional set of “epistemic” values; such discourse is akin to normative discourse relative to the conventional rules of a club (§2). I defend conventionalism by appeal to a “reverse open question argument,” which says, pace expressivism, that epistemic discourse leaves the relevant normative questions open (§3). (shrink)
My goal is to illuminate truth-making by way of illuminating the relation of making. My strategy is not to ask what making is, in the hope of a metaphysical theory about is nature. It's rather to look first to the language of making. The metaphor behind making refers to agency. It would be absurd to suggest that claims about making are claims about agency. It is not absurd, however, to propose that the concept of making somehow emerges from some feature (...) to do with agency. That's the contention to be explore in this paper. The way to do this is through expressivism,. Truth-making claims, and making-claims generfally, are claims in which we express mental states linked to our maipulation of concepts, like truth. In particular, they express disposition to undertake derivations using inference rules, in which introduction rules have a specific role. I then show how this theory explains our intuitions about truth's asymmetric dependence on being. (shrink)
Expressivist views of an area of discourse encourage us to ask not about the nature of the relevant kinds of values but rather about the nature of the relevant kind of evaluations. Their answer to the latter question typically claims some interesting disanalogy between those kinds of evaluations and descriptions of the world. It does so in hope of providing traction against naturalism-inspired ontological and epistemological worries threatening more ‘realist’ positions. This is a familiar position regarding ethical discourse; however, some (...) authors (e.g. Field, Heller, Gibbard, Blackburn, Chrisman) have recently defended a similar view regarding epistemic discourse. Others (especially Kvanvig, Cuneo, and Lynch) have argued that epistemic expressivism faces special problems, not necessarily attaching to expressivism about other areas. Their arguments differ in interesting ways, but the common strategy is an attempt to show that the very sort of meta-epistemological theorizing needed to articulate and establish epistemic expressivism involves the epistemic expressivist in some sort of internal incoherence or self-defeat. That is, they think that articulating or defending the position requires implicit commitment to the negation of one of the positions core tenets. This paper responds to those arguments on behalf of epistemic expressivism, suggesting that they each misunderstand what is crucial to epistemic expressivism. By responding to these arguments, we hope to achieve more clarity about what epistemic expressivism is and why one might want to endorse it in a meta-epistemology. (shrink)
This paper is about Truth Minimalism, Norm Expressivism, and the relation between them. In particular, it is about whether Truth Minimalism can help to solve a problem thought to plague Norm Expressivism. To start with, let me explain what I mean by 'Truth Minimalism' and 'Norm Expressivism.'.
In this paper I will be concerned with the question as to whether expressivist theories of meaning can coherently be combined with deflationist theories of truth. After outlining what I take expressivism to be and what I take deflationism about truth to be, I’ll explain why I don’t take the general version of this question to be very hard, and why the answer is ‘yes’. Having settled that, I’ll move on to what I take to be a more pressing (...) and interesting version of the question, arising from a prima facie tension between deflationism about truth and the motivations underlying expressivism for what I take to be two of its most promising applications: to indicative conditionals and epistemic modals. Here I’ll argue that the challenge is substantive, but that there is no conceptual obstacle to its being met, provided that one’s expressivism takes the right form. (shrink)
This paper argues that expressivism faces serious difficulties giving an adequate account of univocal moral disagreements. Expressivist accounts of moral discourse understand moral judgments in terms of various noncognitive mental states, and they interpret moral disagreements as clashes between competing (and incompatible) attitudes. I argue that, for various reasons, expressivists must specify just what mental states are involved in moral judgment. If they do not, we lack a way of distinguishing moral judgments from other sorts of assessment and thus (...) for identifying narrowly moral disagreements. If they do, we can construct cases of intuitively real dispute that do not rest on the theory’s preferred mental states. This strategy is possible because our intuitions about moral concept-ascription do not track speakers’ noncognitive states. I discuss various ways of developing this basic argument, then apply it to the work of the two most sophisticated proponents of expressivism, Allan Gibbard and Simon Blackburn. I argue that neither is successful in meeting the challenge. (shrink)
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)
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)
There is a wide-spread belief amongst theorists of mind and language. This is that in order to understand the relation between language, thought, and reality we need a theory of meaning and content, that is, a normative, formal science of meaning, which is an extension and theoretical deepening of folk ideas about meaning. This book argues that this is false, offering an alternative idea: The form of a theory that illuminates the relation of language, thought, and reality is a theory (...) of language agency. In a nutshell, the theory of language agency is a theory of competence, without being a theory of understanding or grasping rules. It is a theory of cognitive structure and language production. This theory distils all there is to say about language, thought, and reality. It does not supplement a theory of truth-conditions or semantic norms. It is not the explanation of how a speaker, qua cognitive system causally embedded in a larger reality, is able to use a language with some pre-existing semantic characterization. There is no pre-existing semantic characterization. Nevertheless, there are facts of meaning, as good as any other facts. The dissolution of the theory of meaning is accompanied by another disappearance. That is the disappearance of metaphysical questions in a number of domains. Once we complete the theory of language agency, then just as theoretical questions about meaning disappear, certain theoretical questions about existence disappear. Having provided a theory of the language agency for talk of meaning, fact, property, relation, and proposition, there is no question left over about what meanings, facts, properties, relations, and propositions are. There is no theory to be given of their natures. This is not because they have primitive irreducible natures. Rather it is because, in a sense to be clarified in this work, they lack natures. I call this approach to language agency Global Expressivism. That is because it generalizes some of the insights brought to the study of value-language by expressivists. However, it removes these insights from the clouding affects of attempting to make expressivism a semantic theory. Expressivism about value fails as a semantic theory of value talk. However, global expressivism can succeed as a theory of all talk because it is not a semantic theory but a theory of language agency, wherein the theory of meaning is replaced by a theory of talk about meaning. (shrink)
One’s account of the meaning of ethical sentences should fit – roughly, as part to whole – with one’s account of the meaning of sentences in general. When we ask, though, where one widely discussed account of the meaning of ethical sentences fits with more general accounts of meaning, the answer is frustratingly unclear. The account I have in mind is the sort of metaethical expressivism inspired by Ayer, Stevenson, and Hare, and defended and worked out in more detail (...) recently by Blackburn, Gibbard, and others. So, my first aim (§1) in this paper is to pose this question about expressivism’s commitments in the theory of meaning and to characterize the answer I think is most natural, given the place expressivist accounts attempt to occupy metaethics. This involves appeal to an ideationalist account of meaning. Unfortunately for the expressivist, however, this answer generates a problem; it’s my second aim (§2) to articulate this problem. Then, my third aim (§3) is to argue that this problem doesn’t extend to the sort of account of the meaning of ethical claims that I favor, which is like expressivism in rejecting a representationalist order of semantic explanation but unlike expressivism in basing an alternative order of semantic explanation on inferential role rather than expressive function. (shrink)
The basic idea of expressivism is that for some sentences ‘P’, believing that P is not just a matter of having an ordinary descriptive belief. This is a way of capturing the idea that the meaning of some sentences either exceeds their factual/descriptive content or doesn’t consist in any particular factual/descriptive content at all, even in context. The paradigmatic application for expressivism is within metaethics, and holds that believing that stealing is wrong involves having some kind of desire-like (...) attitude, with world-tomind direction of fit, either in place of, or in addition to, being in a representational state of mind with mind-to-world direction of fit. Because expressivists refer to the state of believing that P as the state of mind ‘expressed’ by ‘P’, this view can also be described as the view that ‘stealing is wrong’ expresses a state of mind that involves a desire-like attitude instead of, or in addition to, a representational state of mind. According to some expressivists - unrestrained expressivists, as I’ll call them - there need be no special relationship among the different kinds of state of mind that can be expressed by sentences. Pick your favorite state of mind, the unrestrained expressivist allows, and there could, at least in principle, be a sentence that expressed it. Expressivists who seem to have been unrestrained plausibly include Ayer in Language, Truth, and Logic, and Simon Blackburn in many of his writings, including his , , and.. (shrink)
Divine law theories of metaethics claim that moral rightness is grounded in God’s commands, wishes and so forth. Expressivist theories, by contrast, claim that to call something morally right is to express our own attitudes, not to report on God’s. Ostensibly, such views are incompatible. However, we shall argue that a rapprochement is possible and beneficial to both sides. Expressivists need to explain the difference between reporting and expressing an attitude, and to address the Frege-Geach problem. Divine law theorists need (...) to get past the Euthyphro dilemma, and to avoid moral externalism. This paper shows how a combined theory helps us to achieve this. (shrink)
The aim of the paper is to state a version of epistemic expressivism regarding knowledge, and to suggest how this expressivism about knowledge explains the value of knowledge. The paper considers how an account of the value of knowledge based on expressivism about knowledge responds to the Meno Problem, the Swamping Problem, and a variety of other questions that pertains to the value of knowledge, and the role of knowledge in our cognitive ecology.
Simon Blackburnâ€™s expressivist logic of attitudes aims to explain how we can use non-assertoric moral judgements in logically valid arguments. Patricia Marino has recently argued that Blackburnâ€™s logic faces a dilemma: either it cannot account for the place of moral dilemmas in moral reasoning or, if it can, it makes an illicit distinction between two different kinds of moral dilemma. Her target is the logicâ€™s definition of validity as satisfiability, according to which validity requires an avoidance of attitudinal inconsistency. Against (...) Marinoâ€™s arguments, I contend that expressivists following Blackburn are able to show how we appreciate the validity of arguments found in dilemma-contexts, and that Marinoâ€™s argument concerning the distinction between contingent moral dilemmas and logical moral dilemmas rests on a mistake concerning the logical representation of a contingent dilemma. (shrink)
Philosophers often hold that the aim of conceptual analysis is to discover the representational content of a given concept such as free will , belief , or law . In From Metaphysics to Ethics and other recent work, Frank Jackson has developed a theory of conceptual analysis that is one of the most advanced systematizations of this widespread idea. I argue that this influential way of characterizing conceptual analysis is too narrow. I argue that it is possible that an expressivist (...) account could turn out to be correct as a genuine conceptual analysis of a genuine concept . I claim that since an expressivist analysis does not aim to discover the representational content of a given conceptâ€”and, indeed, might itself be based on the idea that the concept in question is not even representational in natureâ€”the possibility of expressivist conceptual analysis shows that Jacksonâ€™s theory of conceptual analysis is incomplete as it currently stands. I conclude that Jackson needs to either shift his basic understanding of the nature of conceptual analysis or commit to a particular normative reinterpretation of his project. (shrink)
Contemporary expressivists typically deny that all true judgments must represent reality. Many instead adopt truth minimalism, according to which there is no substantive property of judgments in virtue of which they are true. In this article, I suggest that expressivists would be better suited to adopt truth pluralism, or the view that there is more than one substantive property of judgments in virtue of which judgments are true. My point is not that an expressivism that takes this form is (...) true, but that it more readily accommodates the motivations that typically lead expressivists to their view in the first place. (shrink)
Expressivists explain the expression relation which obtains between sincere moral assertion and the conative or affective attitude thereby expressed by appeal to the relation which obtains between sincere assertion and belief. In fact, they often explicitly take the relation between moral assertion and their favored conative or affective attitude to be exactly the same as the relation between assertion and the belief thereby expressed. If this is correct, then we can use the identity of the expression relation in the two (...) cases to test the expressivist account as a descriptive or hermeneutic account of moral discourse. I formulate one such test, drawing on a standard explanation of Moore's paradox. I show that if expressivism is correct as a descriptive account of moral discourse, then we should expect versions of Moore's paradox where we explicitly deny that we possess certain affective or conative attitudes. I then argue that the constructions that mirror Moore's paradox are not incoherent. It follows that expressivism is either incorrect as a hermeneutic account of moral discourse or that the expression relation which holds between sincere moral assertion and affective or conative attitudes is not identical to the relation which holds between sincere non-moral assertion and belief. A number of objections are canvassed and rejected. (shrink)
Epistemic expressivism is the application of a nexus of ideas, which is prominent in ethical theory (more specifically, metaethics), to parallel issues in epistemological theory (more specifically, metaepistemology). Here, in order to help those new to the debate come to grips with epistemic expressivism and recent discussions of it, I first briefly present this nexus of ideas as it occurs in ethical expressivism. Then, I explain why and how some philosophers have sought to extend it to a (...) version of epistemic expressivism. Finally, I consider a number of objections and replies with the aim of giving the reader the tools needed to begin to evaluate the promise and prospects of epistemic expressivism. (shrink)
Philosophers should consider a hybrid meta-ethical theory that includes elements of both moral expressivism and moral error theory. Proponents of such an expressivist-error theory hold that all moral utterances are either expressions of attitudes or expressions of false beliefs. Such a hybrid theory has two advantages over pure expressivism, because hybrid theorists can offer a more plausible account of the moral utterances that seem to be used to express beliefs, and hybrid theorists can provide a simpler solution to (...) the Frege-Geach problem. The hybrid theory has three advantages over pure error theory, because hybrid theorists can offer a more plausible account of the moral utterances that seem to be used to express attitudes, hybrid theorists can more easily explain moral motivation, and hybrid theorists can avoid the implausible claim that all moral discourse is radically mistaken. Accordingly, such a hybrid theory should be more attractive than pure expressivism or pure error theory to philosophers who are skeptical about moral facts and truth. (shrink)
An expressivist theory of consciousness is outlined. The suggestion that attributions of consciousness involve an essentially projective element is carefully examined, as is the view that ‘zombism’, defined as the thought that certain people are unconscious although physically normal, is a largely affective and not wholly cognitive (hypothetical) disorder. A comparison is drawn between ‘zombism’ and the Capgras delusion. The notion of supervenience is shown to be deeply problematic when applied to projected properties, as is the distinction between weak and (...) strong varieties. It is concluded that, contrary to most received opinion, consciousness and values are not all that different as far as these modal considerations are concerned. (shrink)
The paper is a critical examination of the metaethical position taken up recently by Terence Horgan and Mark Timmons, called ‘cognitivist expressivism’. The key component of the position is their insistence that some beliefs are nondescriptive. The paper argues against this thesis in two ways: First by sketching an independently plausible account of belief, on which belief is essentially a certain kind of descriptive representational state; and second by rebutting Horgan and Timmons’ positive arguments in favor of their account. (...) The final section argues that Horgan and Timmons’ view cannot survive abandonment of the thesis that moral beliefs are nondescriptive in character. (shrink)
Over the years, metaethicists have witnessed the rise of a cottage industry devoted to claiming that expressivist analyses cannot capture some allegedly important feature of moral language. In this paper, I show how Simon Blackburn's pragmatist method enables him to respond decisively to many of these objections. In doing so, I hope to call into question some prevailing assumptions about the linguistic phenomena that a metaethical theory should be expected to capture.
In this paper I argue that the common practice of employing moral predicates as explaining phrases can be accommodated on an expressivist account of moral practice. This account does not treat moral explanations as in any way second-rate or derivative, since it subsumes moral explanations under the general theory of program explanations (as defended by Jackson and Pettit). It follows that the phenomenon of moral explanations cannot be used to adjudicate the debate between expressivism and its rivals.
Robert Brandom defends the intelligibility of the notion of a fully discursive practice that does not include any kind of logical vocabulary. Logical vocabulary, according to his account, should be understood as an optional extra to discursive practice, not as a necessary ingredient. Call this the Layer Cake Picture of the relation of logical to non-logical discursive practices. The aim pursued in this paper is to show, by way of an internal critique, that the Layer Cake Picture is in fact (...) incompatible with the most central claims of Brandom’s philosophy. A way is sketched how to give up the Layer Cake Picture and still hold on to a position that is central to Brandom’s philosophical outlook, namely his expressivism about logic. (shrink)
Allan Gibbard maintains that his plan-based expressivism allows for a particular type of innocent mistake: I can agree that your plan to X makes sense (say, because it was based on advice from someone you trust), while nonetheless insisting that it is incorrect (e.g., because you chose a bad advisor). However, Steve Daskal has recently argued that there are significant limitations in Gibbard’s account of how we can be mistaken about the normative judgments we make. This essay refines Gibbard’s (...) account in order to show--contra Daskal--that expressivists can deliver a surprisingly robust form of normative objectivity. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with the expressivist account of moral supervenience that Simon Blackburn has offered. First, the account is presented, and an objection to it is thereafter discussed. In short, the objection is that the supervenience constraint in moral discourse is mysterious, given that no similar constraint governs speech and thought in other areas of discourse that seem to be prime candidates for an expressivist analysis. The conclusion of the paper is that this objection can be fended off.
This paper aims to develop the implications of logical expressivism for a theory of dialogue coherence. I proceed in three steps. Firstly, certain structural properties of cooperative dialogue are identified. Secondly, I describe a variant of the multi-agent natural deduction calculus that I introduced in Piwek (J Logic Lang Inf 16(4):403–421, 2007 ) and demonstrate how it accounts for the aforementioned structures. Thirdly, I examine how the aforementioned system can be used to formalise an expressivist account of logical vocabulary (...) that is inspired by Brandom (Making it explicit: reasoning, representing, and discursive commitment, 1994 ; Articulating reasons: an introduction to inferentialism, 2000 ). This account conceives of the logical vocabulary as a tool which allows speakers to describe the inferential practices which underlie their language use, i.e., it allows them to make those practices explicit. The rewards of this exercise are twofold: (1) We obtain a more precise account of logical expressivism which can be defended more effectively against the critique that such accounts lead to cultural relativism. (2) The formalised distinction between engaging in a practice and expressing it, opens the way for a revision of the theory of dialogue coherence. This revision eliminates the need for logically complex formulae to account for certain structural properties of cooperative dialogue. (shrink)
On an expressivist view, ethical claims are understood as expressions of our attitudes, desires, and feelings. A famous puzzle for this view concerns the use of logic in ethical reasoning, and two standard treatments try to solve the puzzle by explaining logical inconsistency in terms of conflicting attitudes. I argue, however, that this general strategy fails: because we can reason effectively even in the presence of conflicting moral attitudes – in cases of moral dilemmas – avoiding these conflicts cannot be (...) a ground for correct moral reasoning. The result is a dilemma for expressivists: if they take all kinds of attitudes to be under consideration, then conflict cannot play the required role, since attitudes can fail to be compatible in cases of moral conflict. If they restrict attention to ‘all-in attitudes’ or to intentions or plans, then there is an important notion of obligation, used in standard arguments – one for which conflicts are allowed – that they fail to capture. I explain why expressivists should be especially tolerant of conflicting attitudes, and I conclude that they should pursue a different strategy for grounding logical normativity. (shrink)
The Negation Problem states that expressivism has insufficient structure to account for the various ways in which a moral sentence can be negated. We argue that the Negation Problem does not arise for expressivist accounts of all normative language but arises only for the specific examples on which expressivists usually focus. In support of this claim, we argue for the following three theses: 1) A problem that is structurally identical to the Negation Problem arises in non-normative cases, and this (...) problem is solved once the hidden quantificational structure involved in such cases is uncovered; 2) the terms ‘required’, ‘permissible’, and ‘forbidden’ can also be analyzed in terms of hidden quantification over a normative primitive, and the Negation Problem disappears once this hidden structure is uncovered; 3) the Negation Problem does not arise for normative language that has no hidden quantificational structure. We conclude that the Negation Problem is not really a problem about expressivism at all but is rather a feature of the quantificational structure of the required, permitted, and forbidden. (shrink)
Elizabeth Anderson’s “pluralist–expressivist” value theory, an alternative to the understanding of value and rationality underlying the “rational actor” model of human behavior, provides rich resources for addressing questions of environmental and animal ethics. It is particularly well-suited to help us think about the ethics of commodification, as I demonstrate in this critique of the pet trade. I argue that Anderson’s approach identifies the proper grounds for criticizing the commodification of animals, and directs our attention to the importance of maintaining social (...) practices and institutions that respect the social meanings of animals. Her theory alone, however, does not adequately address the role of the state in this project. Drawing on social contract theory to fill this gap, I conclude that the state’s role in regulating the pet trade should be limited to ensuring the welfare of animals in the stream of commerce, not prohibiting their mass marketing altogether. (shrink)
According to expressivism, moral judgments are desire-like states of mind. It is often argued that this view is made implausible because it isn’t consistent with the conceivability of amoralists, i.e., agents who make moral judgments yet lack motivation. In response, expressivists can invoke the distinction between dispositional and occurrent desires. Strandberg (Am Philos Quart 49:81–91, 2012) has recently argued that this distinction does not save expressivism. Indeed, it can be used to argue that expressivism is false. In (...) this paper I argue that expressivism is a much more complex thesis than Strandberg assumes. Once these complexities are acknowledged, Strandberg’s arguments are rendered ineffective and expressivism rendered more plausible. (shrink)
This paper explores in detail an argument for epistemic expressivism, what we call the Argument from Motivation. While the Argument from Motivation has sometimes been anticipated, it has never been set out in detail. The argument has three premises, roughly, that certain judgments expressed in attributions of knowledge are intrinsically motivating in a distinct way (P1); that motivation for action requires desire-like states or conative attitudes (HTM); and that the semantic content of knowledge attributions cannot be specified without reference (...) to the intrinsically motivating judgments that such attributions express (P2). We argue that these premises entail a version of ecumenical expressivism. Since the argument from motivation has not been explicitly stated before, there is no current discussion of the argument. In this paper we therefore consider and reject various objections that one might propose to the argument, including some that stem from the idea that knowledge is factive, or that knowledge involves evidence that rules out relevant alternatives. Other objections to (P1) specifically might be derived from cases of apparent lack of epistemic motivation considered in in Kvanvig (The value of knowledge and the pursuit of understanding, 2003) and Brown (Nous 42(2):167–189, 2008), as well as from general forms of externalism about epistemic motivation. We consider these and find them wanting. Finally, the paper offers some critical remarks about the prospect of denying (P2). (shrink)
Morality and rationality are both normative: the moral claim “you ought to help others” is a genuine normative judgment, as well as the rational maxim “you ought to brush your teeth twice a day”. But it seems that there is a crucial difference these two judgments. In the first part of this paper, I argue that this difference is to be understood as a difference between two kinds of normativity: demanding and recommending normativity. But the crucial task is, of course, (...) to explain the difference. In the second part of this paper, I suggest that metaethical expressivists can provide a good explanation: by extending the analysis of ordinary (non-normative) demands and recommendations to normative judgments, they can formulate a convincing account that captures the key differences between morality and rationality. (shrink)
Many expressivists have employed a claim about the practicality of morality in support of their view that moral convictions are not purely descriptive mental states. In this paper I argue that all extant arguments of this form fail. I distinguish several versions of such arguments and argue that in each case either the sense of practicality the argument employs is too weak, in which case there is no reason to think that descriptive states cannot be practical or the sense of (...) practicality the argument employs is too strong, in which case there is no reason to think moral convictions are practical. I also discuss and dismiss an attempted patch of such arguments provided by Humean Psychology. The conclusion is that expressivists need to look to sources other than the alleged practicality of morality to support their position. In concluding remarks I suggest one such alternative. (shrink)
Moral realism and antirealist-expressivism are of course incompatible positions. They disagree fundamentally about the nature of moral states of mind, the existence of moral states of affairs and properties, and the nature and role of moral discourse. The central realist view is that a person who has or expresses a moral thought is thereby in, or thereby expresses, a cognitive state of mind; she has or expresses a belief that represents a moral state of affairs in a way that (...) might be accurate or inaccurate. The view of antirealist-expressivism is that such a person is in, or expresses, a conative state of mind, one that consists in a certain kind of attitude or motivational stance toward something, such as an action or a person. Realism holds that moral thoughts have truth conditions and that in some cases these truth conditions are satisfied so that our moral thoughts are true. Antirealist-expressivism holds, to a first approximation, that the distinctive moral content of a moral thought does not have truth conditions. (shrink)
I consider a recent attempt by Mark Schroeder in his book Being For to provide an expressivist semantics for the connectives, and I argue that it does not, as it claims, answer the ‘Frege-Geach objection&rsquo.
I develop a new argument for an expressivist account of epistemic modals, which starts from a puzzle about epistemic modals which Seth Yalcin recently presented. I reject Yalcin's own solution to the puzzle, and give a better explanation based on expressivism concerning epistemic modals. I also address two alleged problems for expressivism: do embeddings of epistemic modals pose a serious threat to expressivism, and how can expressivism account for disagreements about statements containing epistemic modals?
In this paper, I consider the prospects of two different kinds of expressivism – ethical expressivism and avowal expressivism – in light of two common objections. The first objection stems from the fact that it is natural to think of ethical statements and avowals as at least potential manifestations of knowledge. The second objection stems from the fact that it is natural to treat ethical statements and avowals as truth-evaluable. I argue that, although a recent avowal expressivist (...) attempt (Bar-On 2004) to meet the second objection may succeed, the related response to the first objection threatens to undermine the principal advantages of that view. Then, I argue that although recent ethical expressivist attempts (especially Blackburn 1998 and Gibbard 2003) to meet the first objection are successful, the related response to the second objection threatens to undermine the principal advantages of that view. This suggests a cross-pollination of defensive strategies, which I go on to explore in order to articulate the theoretical commitments one must take on to make either cross-pollinated position work in the face of both objections. In light of this, I suggest that the prospects for the resulting ethical expressivist position are considerably better than the prospects for the resulting avowal expressivist position, though both positions involve significant theoretical costs. (shrink)
In this paper, I exploit the parallel between epistemic contextualism and metaethical speaker-relativism to argue that a promising way out of two of the primary problems facing contextualism is one already explored in some detail in the ethical case – viz. expressivism. The upshot is an argument for a form of epistemic expressivism modeled on a familiar form of ethical expressivism. This provides a new nondescriptivist option for understanding the meaning of knowledge attributions, which arguably better captures (...) the normative nature of epistemic discourse than descriptivist competitors like invariantism and contextualism. (shrink)
I discuss the relationship between the two forms of expressivism defended by Robert Brandom, on one hand, and philosophers in the Humean tradition, such as Simon Blackburn and Allan Gibbard, on the other. I identify three apparent points of difference between the two programs, but argue that all three are superficial. Both projects benefit from the insights of the other, and the combination is in a natural sense a global expressivism.
According to a persistent objection against metaethical expressivism, this view is committed to a strong version of internalism which is unable to account for cases where a person’s moral judgment and motivation come apart. Recently, leading expressivists have argued that they can meet this objection by maintaining that moral judgments consist in non-cognitive states that motivate in normal conditions. In this paper, it is maintained that an important dimension of internalism has, on the whole, gone unnoticed: Internalist claims vary (...) depending on whether moral judgments and motivation are understood as dispositional states or occurrent states. This variation can be invoked in an argument showing that expressivists are indeed committed to versions of internalism that make it impossible to account for cases in which moral judgment and motivation diverge. (shrink)
Expressivism and truth have had a rocky relationship; this paper is a move toward reconciliation. I’ll show how to give a semantics for ‘true’ and ‘false’ in the most promising expressivist framework I know of1, and explain how the resulting marriage can benefit both parties. This is because expressivists need an account of truth, and expressivism about truth itself has certain attractions in its own right. In particular, I’ll show in a rigorous way how expressivists can make good (...) on the idea that valid arguments are truth-preserving, shed some light on the idea that truth is not a property, and explore an application to the paradox of the liar. But first, I need to explain what an expressivist semantics involves, and some of the background underlying the version of the view that I will depend on, here. The digression will take a while, but I promise a payoff at the end. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
In this paper I explore why one might hope to, and how to begin to, develop an expressivist account of truth – that is, a semantics for ‘true’ and ‘false’ within an expressivist framework. I do so for a few reasons: because certain features of deflationism seem to me to require some sort of nondescriptivist semantics, because of all nondescriptivist semantic frameworks which are capable of yielding definite predictions rather than consisting merely of hand-waving, expressivism is that with which (...) I am most familiar, and because I believe that certain problems about truth and particularly about paradox seem to me to look different, when seen through the lens of an expressivist theory. I don’t mean to defend such a theory in this paper, and indeed I have cast doubts on the ultimate prospects of the framework I will be employing here elsewhere.1 But I do think that seeing what an expressivist theory of truth would look like helps to shed light on both expressivism and on truth. (shrink)
The present paper argues that there are at least two equally plausible yet mutually incompatible answers to the question of what is of non-instrumental epistemic value. The hypothesis invoked to explain how this can be so—moderate epistemic expressivism—holds that (a) claims about epistemic value express nothing but commitments to particular goals of inquiry, and (b) there are at least two viable conceptions of those goals. It is shown that such expressivism survives recent arguments against a more radical form (...) of epistemic expressivism, as well as two further arguments, framed in terms of the two most promising attempts to ground claims about epistemic value in something other than commitments to particular conceptions of inquiry. While this does not establish that moderate epistemic expressivism is true, its ability to explain a significant but puzzling axiological datum, as well as withstand strong counterarguments, makes clear that it is a theory to be reckoned with. (shrink)
Recent philosophical debate about the meaning of knowledge claims has largely centered on the question of whether epistemic claims are plausibly thought to be context sensitive. The default assumption has been that sentences that attribute knowledge or justification (or whatever else is epistemic) have stable truth-conditions across different contexts of utterance, once any non-epistemic context sensitivity has been fixed. The contrary view is the contextualist view that such sentences do not have stable truth-conditions but can vary depending on the context (...) of utterance. This debate manifestly presupposes that the meta-epistemological issue of accounting for the meaning of epistemic claims is to be settled by determining the truth-conditions of these claims. I think this presupposition is undermotivated in light of two observations. First, many epistemologists see epistemic claims as evaluative or normative, in some sense. Second, in the meta-ethical debate most philosophers take alternatives to truth-conditional semantics, such as expressivism, as live options when it comes to evaluative or normative claims. As it turns out, I think expressivism doesn’t provide a plausible account of normative concepts across the board. But considering it as an alternative in the meta-epistemological debate points the way to another alternative to truth-conditional semantics. This is a form of inferentialism. In this paper, I try to motivate a move to epistemic inferentialism by showing how it overcomes worries about expressivism and interacts with plausible ideas about the social function epistemic claims play in our commerce with one another and the word. (shrink)