Non-cognitivists claim that thick concepts can be disentangled into distinct descriptive and evaluative components and that since thick concepts have descriptive shape they can be mastered independently of evaluation. In Non-Cognitivism and Rule-Following, John McDowell uses Wittgenstein’s rule-following considerations to show that such a non-cognitivist view is untenable. In this paper I do several things. I describe the non-cognitivist position in its various forms and explain its driving motivations. I then explain McDowell’s argument against non-cognitivism and the Wittgensteinian (...) considerations upon which it relies, because this has been sufficiently misunderstood by critics and rarely articulated by commentators. After clarifying McDowell’s argument against non-cognitivism, I extend the analysis to show that commentators of McDowell have failed to appreciate his argument and that critical responses have been weak. I argue against three challenges posed to McDowell, and show that the case of thick concepts should lead us to reject non-cognitivism. (shrink)
Though Nietzsche traditionally often used to be interpreted as a nihilist, a range of possible metaethical interpretations, including varieties of realism, subjectivism and fictionalism, have emerged in the secondary literature. Recently the possibility that Nietzsche is a non-cognitivist has been broached. If one sees Hume as a central non-cognitivist figure, as recent non-cognitivists such as Simon Blackburn have, then the similarities between Nietzsche and Hume can make this reading seem plausible. This paper assesses the general plausibility of interpreting Nietzsche as (...) a non-cognitivist. Non-cognitivism can mean various things and so some attempt is made to lay out the various kinds of non-cognitivism one might ascribe to Nietzsche. As part of the overall assessment of the plausibility of a non-cognitivist Nietzsche, the paper considers in detail the arguments of Maudemarie Clark and David Dudrick on behalf of a non-cognitivist reading. It argues, however, that there is insufficient evidence to justify the interpretation and that the analogy to Hume is unhelpful. (shrink)
It is commonly thought that the prevalence of moral dissent poses a problem for the moral cognitivist, forcing her to diagnose either a lot of misunderstanding, or a lot of unexplained observational error. Since mere misunderstanding can be ruled out in most cases of moral dissent, and since the diagnosis of widespread unexplained error is interpretively unstable, prevalent dissent has pushed many philosophers towards non-cognitivism. In this essay, I argue that once a diachronic, pragmatist theory of language along the (...) lines of the latest Wittgenstein is employed, a third interpretive option becomes available to the cognitivist. Besides the diagnostic options of misunderstanding and factual disagreement, she can argue that a given case of moral dissent is an instance of grammatical tension. This interpretation not only saves moral cognitivism, it also has some attractive theoretical implications. Among other things, it yields an elegant way of solving the current debate around moral particularism. (shrink)
This paper will defend the cognitivist view of cognition against recent challenges from Andy Clark and Richard Menary. It will also indicate the important theoretical role that cognitivism plays in understanding some of the core issues surrounding the hypothesis of extended cognition.
In the face of pluralism, moral constructivists attempt to salvage cognitivism by separating moral and ethical issues. Divergence over ethical issues, which concern the good life, would not threaten moral cognitivism, which is based on identifying generalizable interests as worthy of defending, using reason. Yet this approach falters given the inability of the constructivist to provide us a sure path by which to discern generalizable interests in difficult cases. Still, even if this approach to constructivism fails, cognitivist aspirations (...) may not be defeated if we can continue discursively in a project of identifying and appreciating the interests of others. Grasping the interests of others may require a transformation of moral sensibility such that agents recognize values they have not acknowledged before. This view calls for external moral discourse—that is, moral discourse that makes no appeal to an agent's present interests or desires but rather engages in description of the moral situation in hopes of bringing about a change in moral sensibility. (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)
This paper will defend the cognitivist view of cognition against recent challenges from Andy Clark and Richard Menary. It will also indicate the important theoretical role that cognitivism plays in understanding some of the core issues surrounding the hypothesis of extended cognition.
The article begins with Jonathan Dancy’s attempt to refute the Humean Theory of Motivation. It first spells out Dancy’s argument for his alternative position, the view he labels ‘Pure Cognitivism’, according to which what motivate are always beliefs, never desires. The article next argues that Dancy’s argument for his position is flawed. On the one hand, it is not true that desire always comes with motivation in the agent; on the other, even if this was the case, it would (...) still not follow that desire is identical with the state of being motivated. When this negative work is done, the article turns to some positive, albeit admittedly tentative remarks about what sort of cognitivist theory of motivation one should endorse. The aim at this point is not to present a brand new theory, but rather to sketch an alternative that stems from what Dancy himself says and is in line with many of his endorsed commitments in other areas. In this way, by moving beyond Pure Cognitivism, the paper sketches a different, but still ‘Dancyesque’ theory of motivation. (shrink)
Artificial Intelligence, and the cognitivist view of mind on which it is based, represent the last stage of the rationalist tradition in philosophy. This tradition begins when Socrates assumes that intelligence is based on principles and when Plato adds the requirement that these principles must be strict rules, not based on taken-for-granted background understanding. This philosophical position, refined by Hobbes, Descartes and Leibniz, is finally converted into a research program by Herbert Simon and Allen Newell. That research program is now (...) in trouble, so we must return to its source and question Socrates' assumption that intelligence consists in solving problems by following rules, and that one acquires the necessary rules by abstracting them from specific cases. A phenomenological description of skill acquisition suggests that the acquisition of expertise moves in just the opposite direction: from abstract rules to particular cases. This description of expertise accounts for the difficulties that have confronted AI for the last decade. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine an account of instrumental reasoning recently put forth by John Broome. His key suggestion is that anyone who engages in reasoning about his intentions also believes that he will do what he intends to do and that combined with a belief about necessary means this creates rational pressure towards believing that one will take the necessary means. I argue that Broomeâs model has three significant problems; his key premise is falseâthe sincere expression of an intention (...) does not entail the belief that one will successfully execute that intention; his account yields a model of instrumental reasoning that is uncomfortably reflective; he seems unable to explain the rational pressure towards taking necessary means that arises directly from having an end and an instrumental belief. All three problems, I argue, are a consequence of Broomeâs inadequate position on what it is to intend to do something. (shrink)
This paper discusses the relation between cognitive and implementational levels of analysis. Chalmers (1990, 1993) argues that a connectionist implementation of a classical cognitive architecture possesses a compositional semantics, and therefore undercuts Fodor and Pylyshyn's (1988) argument that connectionist networks cannot possess a compositional semantics. I argue that Chalmers argument misconstrues the relation between cognitive and implementational levels of analysis. This paper clarifies the distinction, and shows that while Fodor and Pylyshyn's argument survives Chalmers' critique, it cannot be used to (...) establish the irrelevance of neurophysiological implementation to cognitive modeling; some aspects of Chater and Oaksford's (1990) response to Fodor and Pylyshyn, though not all, are therefore cogent. (shrink)
Cognitivist motivational internalism is the thesis that, if one believes that 'It is right to ϕ', then one will be motivated to ϕ. This thesis—which captures the practical nature of morality—is in tension with a Humean constraint on belief: belief cannot motivate action without the assistance of a conceptually independent desire. When defending cognitivist motivational internalism it is tempting to either argue that the Humean constraint only applies to non-moral beliefs or that moral beliefs only motivate ceteris paribus . But (...) succumbing to the first temptation places one under a burden to justify what is motivationally exceptional about moral beliefs and succumbing to the second temptation saddles one with a thesis that fails to do justice to the practicality intuition that cognitivist motivational internalism is suppose to capture. In this paper, I offer a way of defending cognitivist motivational internalism, which does not require accepting that there is anything motivationally unusual about moral beliefs. I argue that no belief satisfies the Humean constraint: all beliefs are capable of motivating without the assistance of a conceptually independent desire. (shrink)
Cognitivism in respect to the arts refers to a constellation of positions that share in common the idea that artworks often bear, in addition to aesthetic value, a significant kind of cognitive value. In this paper I concentrate on three things: (i) the challenge of understanding exactly what one must do if one wishes to defend a cognitivist view of the arts; (ii) common anti-cognitivist arguments; and (iii) promising recent attempts to defend cognitivism.
Argues for a "cognitivist" account of the instrumental principle, on which it is the application of theoretical reason to the beliefs that figure in our intentions. This doctrine is put to work in solving a puzzle about instrumental reason that plagues alternative views.
This paper investigates the linguistic basis for moral non-cognitivism, the view that sentences containing moral predicates do not have truth conditions. It offers a new argument against this view by pointing out that the view is incompatible with our best empirical theories about the grammatical encoding of illocutionary force potentials. Given that my arguments are based on very general assumptions about the relations between the grammar of natural languages and a sentence's illocutionary function, my arguments are broader in scope (...) than the familiar semantic objections to non-cognitivism relating to the so-called Frege-Geach problem: even if a solution to the Frege-Geach problem has been found, my arguments still stand. (shrink)
Cognitivism about practical reason is the view that intentions involve beliefs, and that the rational requirements on intentions can be explained in terms of the rational requirements on the beliefs that figure in intentions. In particular, cognitivists about practical reason have sought to provide cognitive explanations of two basic requirements of practical rationality: a consistency requirement, according to which it is rationally impermissible to have intentions that are jointly inconsistent with one’s beliefs, and a means-end coherence requirement, according to (...) which, to a first approximation, it is rationally impermissible to intend an end while failing to intend what one regards as a necessary means to this end. In order for the cognitivist to explain these requirements, she must arrive at an account of the beliefs that figure in intentions, on the basis of which she can show that any agent who violates these requirements of pratical rationality must have beliefs that violate the requirements of theoretical rationality. Providing such an account, however, turns out to be no easy task. (shrink)
Most naturalists think that the belief/desire model from Hume is the best framework for making sense of motivation. As Smith has argued, given that the cognitive state (belief) and the conative state (desire) are separate on this model, if a moral judgment is cognitive, it could not also be motivating by itself. So, it looks as though Hume and Humeans cannot hold that moral judgments are states of belief (moral cognitivism) and internally motivating (moral internalism). My chief claim is (...) that the details of Hume’s naturalistic philosophy of mind actually allow for a conjunction of these allegedly incompatible views. This thesis is significant, since readers typically have thought that Hume’s view that motivation is not produced by representations, coupled with his view that moral judgments motivate on their own, imply that moral judgments could never take the form of beliefs about, or representations of, the moral (virtue and vice). (shrink)
Even if non-cognitivists about some subject-matter can meet Geach’s challenge to explain how there can be valid implications involving sentences which express non-cognitive attitudes, they face a further problem. I argue that a non-cognitivist cannot explain how, given a valid argument whose conclusion expresses a belief and at least one of whose premises expresses a non-cognitive attitude, it could be reasonable to infer the conclusion from the premises.
Adams and Aizawa (2010b) define cognitivism as the processing of representations with underived content. In this paper, I respond to their use of this stipulative definition of cognition. I look at the plausibility of Adams and Aizawa’s cognitivism, taking into account that they have no criteria for cognitive representation and no naturalistic theory of content determination. This is a glaring hole in their cognitivism—which requires both a theory of representation and underived content to be successful. I also (...) explain why my own position, cognitive integration, is not susceptible to the supposed causal-coupling fallacy. Finally, I look at the more interesting question of whether the distinction between derived and underived content is important for cognition. Given Adams and Aizawa’s concession that there is no difference in content between derived and underived representations (only a difference in how they get their content) I conclude that the distinction is not important and show that there is empirical research which does not respect the distinction. (shrink)
In sum, the non-cognitivist account of motivation is far from unproblematic. The non-cognitivist has trouble telling us what moral attitudes are in a way that is consistent with the phenomenon of variable motivation. Given that the cognitivist has an easy explanation of variable motivation, it seems that cognitivism is preferable to non-cognitivism on the score of motivation, which is a reversal of the way the issue is usually perceived.
Cognitivists about Practical Rationality argue that we can explain some of the (apparent) requirements of practical rationality by appealing to the requirements of theoretical rationality. First, they argue that intentions involve beliefs, and, second, they show how the theoretical requirements governing those involved beliefs can explain some of the practical requirements governing those intentions (or they show how these apparently practical requirements are actually theoretical requirements). This paper avoids the ongoing controversy about whether and how intentions involve beliefs and focuses (...) instead on this second part of the Cognitivist approach, where I think Cognitivism faces significant difficulties. I proceed by considering two attempts by Cognitivists to explain (apparent) requirements of practical rationality and I argue that neither of them succeed. (shrink)
Philosophical cognitivists have argued for more than four decades that emotions are special types of judgments. Anti-cognitivists have provided a series of counterexamples aiming to show that identifying emotions with judgments overintellectualizes the emotions. I provide a novel counterexample that makes the overintellectualization charge especially vivid. I discuss neurophysiological evidence to the effect that the fear system can be activated by stimuli the subject is unaware of seeing. To emphasize the analogy with blind sight , I call this phenomenon blind (...) fright . Cognitivists may reply that blindfright is nothing but an unconscious judgment subcortically elicited. This reply is in line with the strategy commonly employed by cognitivists against their critics. I call it the Elastic Strategy, because it consists of ‘stretching’ the notion of judgment in order to accommodate counterexamples. This strategy, I argue, turns cognitivism into a theory that is at worst unfalsifiable and at best trivially true. The final portion of my article aims to rescue cognitivism from the damage done by the Elastic Strategy. I distinguish three varieties of cognitivism, one concerned with what emotions essentially are (Constitutive Cognitivism), one concerned with what causes emotions (Etiological Cognitivism) and one concerned with what emotions represent (Representational Cognitivism). I conclude that what cognitivism has to offer to emotion theory are primarily insights concerning the causes and representational content of emotions. The constitutive identification of emotions with judgments, on the other hand, does more harm than good. (shrink)
I argue for cognitivism about some normative judgements. I begin with the issues of realism and cognitivism as they manifest themselves in moral philosophy. I then proceed to issues of realism and cognitivism about normative judgements more generally. I describe the norm of consistency in normative judgement, and I argue that this norm means that we must be cognitivist about some normative judgements.
In recent years it has become more and more difficult to distinguish between metaethical cognitivism and non-cognitivism. For example, proponents of the minimalist theory of truth hold that moral claims need not express beliefs in order to be (minimally) truth-apt, and yet some of these proponents still reject the traditional cognitivist analysis of moral language and thought. Thus, the dispute in metaethics between cognitivists and non-cognitivists has come to be seen as a dispute over the correct way to (...) characterize our psychology: are moral judgments beliefs, or a kind of pro-attitude? In this paper, I argue that this distinction, too, is difficult to maintain in the light of a reasonable skepticism about folk psychology. I conclude by suggesting some new possibilities for the analysis of moral language that look beyond this distinction. I begin by briefly reviewing some contemporary positions in metaethics on cognitivism and non-cognitivism, that are intended to emphasize the supposed psychological differences between the two views. I show that the appearance of a clear difference between these views depends on one's having a very strong commitment to the context-independence and completeness of certain concepts of folk psychology. I then argue for a moderate skepticism about folk psychology. I conclude that folk concepts like ?belief? are not sufficiently well-defined to settle this metaethical dispute. (shrink)
Non-cognitivism might seem to offer a plausible account of evaluative judgments, at least on the assumption that there is a satisfactory solution to the Frege-Geach problem. However, Cian Dorr has argued that non-cognitivism remains implausible even assuming that the Frege-Geach problem can be solved, on the grounds that non-cognitivism still has to classify some paradigmatically rational inferences as irrational. Dorr's argument is ingenious and at first glance seems decisive. However, in this paper I will show that Dorr's (...) argument equivocates between two different notions of evidence, and that once this equivocation is noted there is no reason to doubt that non-cognitivism is consistent with the rationality of such inferences, at least if it is assumed that the Frege-Geach problem can be solved. In particular, I will show that non-cognitivists can endorse the same explanation of the rationality of such inferences that cognitivists should endorse, and that there is thus no need for non-cognitivists to offer any sort of idiosyncratic account of the epistemology of such cases, in contrast to what other commentators on Dorr's argument have thought. (shrink)
Frank Snare had a puzzle. He construed Hume as a non-cognitivist, indeed, as the non-cognitivist, the fount and origin of contemporary non-cognitivism. Taking Hume to be a non-cognitivist, Snare devoted a great deal of time and effort to the Motivation Argument, or as he called it, the Influence Argument, which he took to be the chief weapon in Hume.
Introduction. Whatever its underlying causes, even the description of the phenomenon of thought insertion, of the content of the delusion, presents difficulty. It may seem that the best hope of a description comes from a broadly cognitivist approach to the mind which construes content-laden mental states as internal mental representations within what is literally an inner space: the space of the brain or nervous system. Such an approach objectifies thoughts in a way which might seem to hold out the prospect (...) of describing the ''alienated'' relation to one's own thoughts that seems to be present in thought insertion.1 Method. Firstly, I examine the general structure of cognitivist accounts of intentional or content-laden mental states. I raise the general difficulty of explaining how free-standing, and thus world-independent, inner states can still have bearing on the outer world. Secondly, I briefly examine Frith's model for explaining thought insertion and other passivity phenomena by postulating a failure of an internal monitoring mechanism of inner states. I question what account can be given of non-pathological cases and raise two specific objects. Results. Cognitivist accounts of the mind face a general, and possibly insuperable, challenge: explaining the intentionality of mental states in non-intentional, non- question-begging terms. There have so far been no satisfactory solutions. Cognitivist accounts of passivity phenomena in terms of a failure of internal monitoring face two objections. Firstly, accounting for non-pathological cases generates an infinite regress. Secondly, no account can be given of the paradoxical nature of utterances of the form of Moore's paradox: ''it is raining but I do not believe it''. Conclusions. A cognitivist approach presents an alienated account of thought in normal, non-pathological cases and is no help in accounting for thought insertion. (shrink)
The later Wittgenstein advanced a revolutionary but puzzling conception of how philosophy ought to be practised: Philosophical problems are not to be coped with by establishing substantive claims or devising explanations or theories. Instead, philosophical questions ought to be treated ‘like an illness’. Even though this ‘non-cognitivism’ about philosophy has become a focus of debate, the specifically ‘therapeutic’ aims and ‘non-theoretical’ methods constitutive of it remain ill understood. They are motivated by Wittgenstein’s view that the problems he addresses result (...) from misinterpretation, driven by ‘urges to misunderstand’. The present paper clarifies this neglected concept and analyses how such ‘urges’ give rise to pseudo-problems of one particular, hitherto little understood, kind. This will reveal ‘therapeutic’ aims reasonable and ‘non-theoretical’ methods necessary, in one clearly delineated and important part of philosophy. I.e.: By developing a novel account of nature and genesis of one important class of philosophical problems, the paper explains and vindicates a revolutionary reorientation of philosophical work, at the level of both aims and methods. (shrink)
Abstract Cognitivism, presently the major paradigm of psychology, presents a scientific account of mental life. Buddhism also presents an account of mental life, but one which is integral with its wider ethical and transcendental concerns. The postmodern appraisal of science provides a framework within which these two accounts may be compared without inheriting many of the assumed oppositions between science and religion. It is concluded that cognitivism and Buddhism will have complementary roles in the development of a more (...) pluralist psychological science. In this development it will be necessary to address what values are implicit in science. (shrink)
Abstracts The aim of the paper is to propose an alternative model to realist and non-cognitive explanations of the rule-guided use of thick ethical concepts and to examine the implications that may be drawn from this and similar cases for our general understanding of rule-following and the relation between criteria of application, truth and correctness. It addresses McDowell’s non-cognitivism critique and challenges his defence of the entanglement thesis for thick ethical concepts. Contrary to non-cognitivists, however, I propose to view (...) the relation between the two terms of the entanglement as resulting from the satisfaction of a previously applied moral function. This is what I call a “Three-Fold Model”. (shrink)
Cognitivism about imperatives is the thesis that sentences in the imperative mood are truth-apt: have truth values and truth conditions. This allows cognitivists to give a simple and powerful account of consequence relations between imperatives. I argue that this account of imperative consequence has counterexamples that cast doubt on cognitivism itself.
Abstract We propose a metaethical view that combines the cognitivist idea that moral judgments are genuine beliefs and moral utterances express genuine assertions with the idea that such beliefs and utterances are nondescriptive in their overall content. This sort of view has not been recognized among the standard metaethical options because it is generally assumed that all genuine beliefs and assertions must have descriptive content. We challenge this assumption and thereby open up conceptual space for a new kind of metaethical (...) view. In developing our brand of nondescriptivist cognitivism we do the following: (1) articulate a conception of belief (and assertion) that does not require the overall declarative content of beliefs (and assertions) to be descriptive content; (2) make a case for the independent plausibility of this conception of belief and assertion; and (3) argue that our view, formulated in a way that draws upon the proposed conception of belief, has significant comparative advantages over descriptivist forms of cognitivism. (shrink)
In a series of recent articles, Robin Jeshion has developed a theory of singular thought which she calls ‘cognitivism’. According to Jeshion, cognitivism offers a middle path between acquaintance theories—which she takes to impose too strong a requirement on singular thought, and semantic instrumentalism—which she takes to impose too weak a requirement. In this article, I raise a series of concerns about Jeshion's theory, and suggest that the relevant data can be accommodated by a version of acquaintance theory (...) that distinguishes unsuccessful thoughts of singular form from successful singular thoughts, and in addition allows for ‘trace-based’ acquaintance. (shrink)
Moral non-cognitivists hope to explain the nature of moral agreement and disagreement as agreement and disagreement in non-cognitive attitudes. In doing so, they take on the task of identifying the relevant attitudes, distinguishing the non-cognitive attitudes corresponding to judgments of moral wrongness, for example from attitudes involved in aesthetic disapproval or the sports fan’s disapproval of her team’s performance. We begin this paper by showing that there is a simple recipe for generating apparent counterexamples to any informative specification of the (...) moral attitudes. This may appear to be a lethal objection to non-cognitivism, but a similar recipe challenges attempts by non-cognitivism’s competitors to specify the conditions underwriting the contrast between genuine and merely apparent moral disagreement. Because of its generality, this specification problem requires a systematic response, which, we argue, is most easily available for the non-cognitivist. Building on premisses congenial to the non-cognitivist tradition, we make the following claims: (1) In paradigmatic cases, wrongness-judgements constitute a certain complex but functionally unified state, and paradigmatic wrongness-judgments form a functional kind, preserved by homeostatic mechanisms. (2) Because of the practical function of such judgements, we should expect judges’ intuitive understanding of agreement and disagreement to be accommodating, treating states departing from the paradigm in various ways as wrongness-judgements. (3) This explains the intuitive judgements required by the counterexample-generating recipe, and more generally why various kinds of amoralists are seen as making genuine wrongness-judgements. (shrink)
Nondescriptivist Cognitivism vindicates the cognitive value of moral judgements despite their lack of descriptive content. In this paper,I raise a few worries about the proclaimed virtues of this new metaethical framework Firstly, I argue that Nondescriptivist Cognitivism tends to beg the question against descriptivism and, secondly, discuss Horgan and Timmons' case against Michael Smith's metaethical rationalism. Although I sympathise with their main critical claims against the latter, I am less enthusiastic about the arguments that they provide to support (...) them. (shrink)
An important argument for the belief-desire thesis is based on the idea that an agent can be motivated to act only if her mental states include one which aims at changing the world, that is, one with a “world-to-mind”, or “telic”, direction of fit. Some cognitivists accept this claim, but argue that some beliefs, notably moral ones, have not only a “mind-to-world”, or “thetic”, direction of fit, but also a telic one. The paper first argues that this cognitivist reply is (...) deficient, for only the “dominant” direction of fit of an attitude is responsible for its character and function. Further, it seems that the dominant direction of fit of an attitude is determined by its psychological mode, and so all beliefs seem to have a dominant thetic direction of fit, and to be motivationally inert. The main part of this paper, however, is devoted to explaining how it is that attitudes, like moral attitudes, can truly have two directions of fit in a way which enables them to be both cognitive and motivational. Reflection on the nature of beliefs suggests that the claim that the dominant direction of fit of an attitude is determined by its psychological mode should be qualified. The reasons beliefs provide draw their authority for the agent – their demanding nature – from the objects represented by these beliefs, and so, it is the beliefs’ content which determine their dominant direction of fit, as far as their role in practical reasoning is concerned. Thus, in the sense relevant to practical reasoning a belief with a normative content does have a dominant telic direction of fit. At the same time, in the sense relevant to its satisfaction conditions a moral belief has a dominant thetic direction of fit, which underlies its classification as a cognitive attitude. Cognitivists, then, can have it both ways. (shrink)
This paper criticizes the conjunction of two theses: 1) cognitivism about first-person moral ought-beliefs, the thesis (roughly) that such beliefs are attitudes with truth-valued contents; 2) robust internalism about these beliefs, the thesis that, necessarily, agents' beliefs that they ought, morally, to A constitute motivation to A. It is argued that the conjunction of these two theses places our moral agency at serious risk. The argument, which centrally involves attention to clinical depression, is extended to a less demanding, recent (...) brand of internalist moral cognitivism. Philosophers discussed include Dancy, McDowell, McNaughton, and Nagel. (shrink)
This essay offers a defence of the non-cognitivist approach to the interpretation of moral judgments as disguised imperatives corresponding to social rules. It addresses the body of criticism that faced R. M. Hare, and that currently faces moral anti-realists, on two levels, by providing a full semantic analysis of evaluative judgments and by arguing that anti-realism is compatible with moral aspiration despite the non-existence of obligations as the externalist imagines them. A moral judgment consists of separate descriptive and prescriptive components (...) and is to be understood as a declarative statement prefaced by an 'ideality operator'. Moral beliefs are genuinely representational, but their truth conditions can only be stated with reference to imaginary ideal worlds. Moral judgments are neither confirmed nor verified, but alternative moral positions are preferentially endorsed and adopted by individual agents on the basis of their perceived all-things-considered optimality. High aspiration moralities are normally very costly to agents in terms of their prudential and aesthetic interests, but they are theoretically as eligible as the adoption of other, less demanding sets of rules. (shrink)
Philippa Foot has recently argued that non-cognitivism rests on a mistake. According to Foot, non-cognitivism cannot properly account for the role of reasons in moral thinking. Furthermore, Foot argues that moral judgements share a conceptual structure with the kind of evaluations that we make about plants and animals, which cannot be couched in non-cognitivist terms. In this article I argue that, in the form of expressivism, non-cognitivism is capable of accommodating most of what Foot says about reasons (...) and morality. I then argue that the kind of evaluative judgements Foot suggests that we make about plants and animals, does not constitute a plausible alternative to an expressivist understanding of moral judgements. Finally I consider an account similar to Foot's, defended by Rosalind Hursthouse, which, I argue, suffers from an inconsistency, the avoidance of which leaves Hursthouse with a view that is either compatible with expressivism or shares the same problems as Foot's. (shrink)
Abstract The paper explicates a set of criteria the joint satisfaction of which is taken to qualify moral judgements as cognitive. The paper examines evidence that some moral judgements meet these criteria, and relates the resulting conception of moral judgements to ongoing controversies about cognitivism in ethics.
The article is a reply to joseph margolis, "moral cognitivism", "ethics", Volume 85, 1975, Pages 136-141. It is contended that margolis has neglected an important criterion of moral cognitivism: he is quite right in asserting that a cognitive theory, Beyond maintaining that we know moral propositions to be right or wrong and that we are competent so to judge, Must specify the mode of nonpropositional knowledge on which the propositional assertion is based--But his acceptance of naturalism and intuitionism (...) as types of cognitivism indicates that, For him at least, A cognitivist does not need to know what goodness is. It is the point of hill's reply that moral cognitivism ultimately rests on knowing goodness, And that therefore neither naturalism nor intuitionism are morally cognitive at all. (shrink)
Robert Hanna (Rationality and logic. MIT Press, Cambridge, 2006) articulates and defends the thesis of logical cognitivism, the claim that human logical competence is grounded in a cognitive faculty (in Chomsky’s sense) that is not naturalistically explicable. This position is intended to steer us between the Scylla of logical Platonism and the Charybdis of logical naturalism (/psychologism). The paper argues that Hanna’s interpretation of Chomsky is mistaken. Read aright, Chomsky’s position offers a defensible version of naturalism, one Hanna may (...) accept as far as his version of naturalism goes, although not one that supports the claim that cognitive science offers a place for logic that is somehow outside the natural, contingent order. (shrink)
According to Humeanism, actions cannot be adequately explained without reference to the desires of an agent. Desires are viewed as sources of motivation or as motivating states and thus as having an indispensable role to play in the explanation of actions. One of the main rivals of Humeanism is pure cognitivsm. According to this view, actions are to be explained exclusively by beliefs. The present paper's focus is on arguments Jonathan Dancy has put forward in favor of this pure cognitivist (...) picture. His main line of argument tries to convince us of the claim that desires have no explanatory value at all as regards the explantion of an agent's actions. I argue that none of Dancy's arguments against Humeanism is successful, and moreover that the pure cognitivists position fails on its own terms because pure cognitivism is unable to provide an account of desires that makes intelligible their role in the mental economy of agents. (shrink)