Moral Language

Edited by Justin Snedegar (University of St. Andrews)
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  1. Justice, Thick Versus Thin.Brent G. Kyle - forthcoming - In Mortimer Sellers & Stephan Kirste (eds.), Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy.
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  2. Confusion of Tongues: A Theory of Normative Language By Stephen Finlay.Stephen Finlay - 2020 - Analysis 80 (1):99-101.
    This is a short precis of my 2014 book Confusion of Tongues: A Theory of Normative Language, accompanying my Reply to Worsnip, Dowell, and Koehn in the same volume.
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  3. Reply to Worsnip, Dowell, and Koehn.Stephen Finlay - 2020 - Analysis 80 (1):131-147.
    This paper responds to comments on my 2014 book Confusion of Tongues by Alex Worsnip, Janice Dowell, and Glen Koehn. I first address Worsnip’s case for contextualism without relativism. Next I address Dowell’s and Worsnip’s scepticism about whether COT succeeds in providing an analytic reduction of the normative, and Dowell’s recommendation to pursue an alternative, synthetic method. I then consider Worsnip’s comments on COT’s implications for normative ethical theory, and end by responding to Koehn’s challenges to the details of my (...)
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  4. Lei de Hume e falácia naturalista.Ricardo Tavares Da Silva - 2016 - Anatomia Do Crime 4:187-204.
  5. Classical Emotivism: Charles L. Stevenson.Alberto Oya - 2019 - Bajo Palabra 22:309-326.
    The aim of this paper is to reconstruct Charles L. Stevenson’s metaethical view. Since his metaethical view is a form of emotivism, I will start by explaining what the core claims of emotivism are. I will then explore and comment on the specific claims of Stevenson’s proposal. Last, I will offer an overview of the objections that have traditionally been raised against emotivism.
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  6. Metasemantics for the Relaxed.Christine Tiefensee - manuscript
    In this paper, I develop a metasemantics for relaxed moral realism. More precisely, I argue that relaxed realists should be inferentialists about meaning and explain that the role of evaluative moral vocabulary is to organise and structure language exit transitions, much as the role of theoretical vocabulary is to organise and structure language entry transitions.
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  7. Testing for Intrinsic Value, for Us as We Are.Daniel Coren - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-26.
    Philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Brentano, Moore, and Chisholm suggest marks of intrinsic value. Contemporary philosophers such as Christine Korsgaard have insightful discussions of intrinsic value. But how do we verify that some specific thing really is intrinsically valuable? I propose a natural way to test for intrinsic value: first, strip the candidate bare of all considerations of good consequences; and, second, see if what remains is still a good thing. I argue that we, as ordinary human beings, have (...)
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  8. Reply to Bykvist and Olson.Matti Eklund - 2019 - Utilitas 31 (3):347-349.
    Reply to Krister Bykvist and Jonas Olson's review of Choosing Normative Concepts (OUP, 2017) in Utilitas.
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  9. Reasons, Oughts, and Requirements.Justin Snedegar - 2016 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 11:155-181.
    This paper raises a challenge for the recently popular reasons first approach to normativity, according to which all normative notions can be explained in terms of reasons. The reasons first theorist owes us an account of how these explanations go for all other normative notions. I focus here on requirement, and to a lesser extent, permission. There is a very plausible, widely accepted account of the relationship between your reasons and what you ought to do|roughly, what you ought to do (...)
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  10. An Enquiry Into Goodness. [REVIEW]T. W. J. - 1959 - Review of Metaphysics 12 (4):667-667.
    From the apparently simple formula "To say that x is good is to say that it is such as to satisfy the wants of the person or persons concerned," Sparshott develops a subtle and self-critical analysis of evaluative language, incorporating much of classical and very recent ethical theory. A stimulating treatise.--J. T. W.
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  11. What Are Thick Concepts?Matti Eklund - 2011 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 41 (1):25-49.
    Many theorists hold that there is, among value concepts, a fundamental distinction between thin ones and thick ones. Among thin ones are concepts like good and right. Among concepts that have been regarded as thick are discretion, caution, enterprise, industry, assiduity, frugality, economy, good sense, prudence, discernment, treachery, promise, brutality, courage, coward, lie, gratitude, lewd, perverted, rude, glorious, graceful, exploited, and, of course, many others. Roughly speaking, thick concepts are value concepts with significant descriptive content. I will discuss a number (...)
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Moral Semantics
  1. Thickness and Evaluation.Matti Eklund - 2017 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 14 (1):89-104.
    This is a review essay devoted to Pekka Väyrynen’s The Lewd, the Rude and the Nasty. Väyrynen’s book, concerned with thick terms and thick concepts, argues for a pragmatic view on the evaluativeness associated with these terms and concepts. The essay raises a number of critical questions regarding what Väyrynen’s arguments for his view actually show. It deals with, for example, thick properties, the fact-value distinction, what it is for terms and concepts to be (semantically) evaluative, and whether Väyrynen’s arguments (...)
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  2. A “Good” Explanation of Five Puzzles About Reasons.Stephen Finlay - forthcoming - Philosophical Perspectives.
    This paper champions the view (REG) that the concept of a normative reason for an agent S to perform an action A is that of an explanation why it would be good (in some way, to some degree) for S to do A. REG has numerous virtues, but faces some significant challenges which prompt many philosophers to be skeptical that it can correctly account for all our reasons. I demonstrate how five different puzzles about normative reasons can be solved by (...)
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  3. The Demandingness of Virtue.Wes Siscoe - forthcoming - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy.
    How demanding is the virtuous life? Can virtue exist alongside hints of vice? Is it possible to be virtuous within a vicious society? A line of thinking running through Diogenes and the Stoics is that even a hint of corruption is inimical to virtue, that participating in a vicious society makes it impossible for a person to be virtuous. One response to this difficulty is to claim that virtue is a threshold concept, that context sets a threshold for what is (...)
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  4. Stoic Virtue: A Contemporary Interpretation.Wes Siscoe - forthcoming - Philosophers' Imprint.
    The Stoic understanding of virtue is often taken to be a non-starter. Many of the Stoic claims about virtue – that a virtue requires moral perfection and that all who are not fully virtuous are vicious – are thought to be completely out of step with our commonsense notion of virtue, making the Stoic account more of an historical oddity than a seriously defended view. Despite many voices to the contrary, I will argue that there is a way of making (...)
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  5. Relaxing About Moral Truths.Christine Tiefensee - 2019 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 6.
    As with all other moral realists, so-called relaxed moral realists believe that there are moral truths. Unlike metaphysical moral realists, they do not take themselves to be defending a substantively metaphysical position when espousing this view, but to be putting forward a moral thesis from within moral discourse. In this paper, I employ minimalism about truth to examine whether or not there is a semantic analysis of the claim ‘There are moral truths’ which can support this moral interpretation of one (...)
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  6. "Ought" and Error.Christine Tiefensee - 2020 - Journal of Philosophy 117 (2):96-114.
    The moral error theory generally does not receive good press in metaethics. This paper adds to the bad news. In contrast to other critics, though, I do not attack error theorists’ characteristic thesis that no moral assertion is ever true. Instead, I develop a new counter-argument which questions error theorists’ ability to defend their claim that moral utterances are meaningful assertions. More precisely: Moral error theorists lack a convincing account of the meaning of deontic moral assertions, or so I will (...)
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  7. Thick Concepts: Where’s Evaluation? 1.Pekka Väyrynen - 2012 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 7:235-70.
    This chapter presents an alternative to the standard view that at least some of the evaluations that the so-called “thick” terms and concepts in ethics may be used to convey belong to their sense or semantic meaning. After introducing the topic and making some methodological remarks, the chapter presents a wide variety of linguistic data that are well explained by the alternative view that at least a very wide range of thick terms and concepts are such that even the evaluations (...)
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  8. The Slave in the Republic..Stephen Lester Thompson - manuscript
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  9. Resisting Relativistic Contextualism: On Finlay's Confusion of Tongues.Alex Worsnip - 2020 - Analysis 80 (1):122-131.
    Stephen Finlay’s book Confusion of Tongues is extraordinarily sophisticated, ambitious and thought-provoking. I highly commend it to those who haven’t read it yet. I will begin this commentary with a summary of which big-picture issues Finlay and I agree on and which we disagree on.
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  10. Частково фразеологізовані речення з відношеннями зумовленості.Mariya Lychuk - 2017 - Language: Classic – Modern – Postmodern 3:201-209.
    У статті досліджено частково фразеологізовані речення з семантикою зумовленості, описано засоби зв’язку між їхніми частинами. Схарактеризовано семантико-структурні різновиди двох підтипів частково фразеологізованих речень із відношеннями зумовленості. Простежено специфіку вираження дії в пре- і постпозитивних частинах цих речень, описано специфіку додаткової семантики, що нашаровується на основне значення.
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  11. Лінгвальне віддзеркалення оцінного ставлення до опонента в контексті перейменувальної кампанії.Olha Kyryliuk - 2017 - Language: Classic – Modern – Postmodern 3:29-35.
    У статті йдеться про особливості мовного віддзеркалення взаємного ставлення учасників дискусії в умовах обговорення суспільно-політичної ситуації. У ході аналізу окреслено основні психологічні прийоми маніпуляцій суспільною думкою за допомогою мовних одиниць. Встановлено екстра- та інтралінгвальні чинники, що впливають на вибір того чи того номінатива.
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  12. Non-Descriptive Relativism: Adding Options to the Expressivist Marketplace.Matthew Bedke - 2018 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 13:48-70.
    This chapter identifies a novel family of metaethical theories that are non-descriptive and that aim to explain the action-guiding qualities of normative thought and language. The general strategy is to consider different relations language might bear to a given content, where we locate descriptivity (or lack of it) in these relations, rather than locating it in a theory that begins with the expression of states of mind, or locating it in a special kind of content that is not way-things-might-be content. (...)
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  13. ‘Ought’-Contextualism Beyond the Parochial.Alex Worsnip - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (11):3099-3119.
    Despite increasing prominence, ‘ought’-contextualism is regarded with suspicion by most metaethicists. As I’ll argue, however, contextualism is a very weak claim, that every metaethicist can sign up to. The real controversy concerns how contextualism is developed. I then draw an oft-overlooked distinction between “parochial” contextualism—on which the contextually-relevant standards are those that the speaker, or others in her environment, subscribe to—and “aspirational” contextualism—on which the contextually-relevant standards are the objective standards for the relevant domain. However, I argue that neither view (...)
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  14. An Essentialist Theory of the Meaning of Slurs.Eleonore Neufeld - 2019 - Philosophers' Imprint 19.
    In this paper, I develop an essentialist model of the semantics of slurs. I defend the view that slurs are a species of kind terms: Slur concepts encode mini-theories which represent an essence-like element that is causally connected to a set of negatively-valenced stereotypical features of a social group. The truth-conditional contribution of slur nouns can then be captured by the following schema: For a given slur S of a social group G and a person P, S is true of (...)
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  15. Reply to Critics.Matti Eklund - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-27.
    Reply to Stephanie Leary’s, Kris McDaniel’s, Tristram McPherson’s and David Plunkett’s articles on Choosing Normative Concepts (OUP, 2017) in book symposium in Inquiry.
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  16. Thick Evaluation, by Simon Kirchin. [REVIEW]Brent G. Kyle - 2019 - Mind 128 (511):954-962.
    Thick Evaluation, by KirchinSimon. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xi + 198.
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  17. Rationalist Metaphysics, Semantics and Metasemantics,.Mark van Roojen - 2018 - In Karen Jones & Francois Schroeter (eds.), The Many Moral Rationalisms. Oxford: Oxford Univerisity Press. pp. 167-186.
    Rationalism offers an account of moral properties as a subset of the properties which serve to rationalize right actions, and these properties are fit to be the referents of our moral terms. That fitness can be exploited in constructing an externalist theory of reference determination for these terms. The resulting externalist theory draws support from standard responses to Moral Twin-Earth scenarios. The relevance of these responses to moral semantics has recently beenvigorously challenged by Dowell and by Schroeter and Schroeter. The (...)
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  18. Evaluational Adjectives.Alex Silk - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research:1-35.
    This paper demarcates a theoretically interesting class of "evaluational adjectives." This class includes predicates expressing various kinds of normative and epistemic evaluation, such as predicates of personal taste, aesthetic adjectives, moral adjectives, and epistemic adjectives, among others. Evaluational adjectives are distinguished, empirically, in exhibiting phenomena such as discourse-oriented use, felicitous embedding under the attitude verb `find', and sorites-susceptibility in the comparative form. A unified degree-based semantics is developed: What distinguishes evaluational adjectives, semantically, is that they denote context-dependent measure functions ("evaluational (...)
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  19. Are Moral Judgements Semantically Uniform? A Wittgensteinian Approach to the Cognitivism - Non-Cognitivism Debate.Benjamin De Mesel - 2015 - In Benjamin De Mesel & Oskari Kuusela (eds.), Ethics in the Wake of Wittgenstein. New York: Routledge. pp. 126-148.
    Cognitivists and non-cognitivists in contemporary meta-ethics tend to assume that moral judgments are semantically uniform. That is, they share the assumption that either all moral judgments express beliefs, or they all express non-beliefs. But what if some moral judgments express beliefs and others do not? Then moral judgments are not semantically uniform and the question “Cognitivist or non-cognitivist?” poses a false dilemma. I will question the assumption that moral judgments are semantically uniform. First, I will explain what I mean by (...)
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  20. Inferential Expressivism and the Negation Problem.Luca Incurvati & Julian J. Schlöder - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 16.
    We develop a novel solution to the negation version of the Frege-Geach problem by taking up recent insights from the bilateral programme in logic. Bilateralists derive the meaning of negation from a primitive *B-type* inconsistency involving the attitudes of assent and dissent. Some may demand an explanation of this inconsistency in simpler terms, but we argue that bilateralism’s assumptions are no less explanatory than those of *A-type* semantics that only require a single primitive attitude, but must stipulate inconsistency elsewhere. Based (...)
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  21. Moral Vagueness as Semantic Vagueness.Rohan Sud - 2019 - Ethics 129 (4):684-705.
    Does moral vagueness require ontic vagueness? A central challenge for nonontic treatments of moral vagueness arises from the referential stability of moral terms across small changes in how they are applied: if moral vagueness is not ontic vagueness, it’s hard to explain this referential stability. Pointing to this challenge, Miriam Schoenfield has argued that moral vagueness is ontic vagueness, at least for a moral realist. I disagree. I argue that a moral realist can use a conceptual role semantics for moral (...)
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  22. "Moral Skepticism: New Essays" Ed. Diego E. Machuca (Routledge 2018). [REVIEW]Neil Sinclair - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (2):1-7.
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  23. The Expansion View of Thick Concepts.Brent G. Kyle - forthcoming - Noûs.
    This paper proposes a new Separabilist account of thick concepts, called the Expansion View (or EV). According to EV, thick concepts are expanded contents of thin terms. An expanded content is, roughly, the semantic content of a predicate along with modifiers. Although EV is a form of Separabilism, it is distinct from the only kind of Separabilism discussed in the literature, and it has many features that Inseparabilists want from an account of thick concepts. EV can also give non-cognitivists a (...)
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  24. What Normative Terms Mean and Why It Matters for Ethical Theory.Alex Silk - 2015 - In Mark C. Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Vol. 5. pp. 296–325.
    This paper investigates how inquiry into normative language can improve substantive normative theorizing. First I examine two dimensions along which normative language differs: “strength” and “subjectivity.” Next I show how greater sensitivity to these features of the meaning and use of normative language can illuminate debates about three issues in ethics: the coherence of moral dilemmas, the possibility of supererogatory acts, and the connection between making a normative judgment and being motivated to act accordingly. The paper concludes with several brief (...)
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  25. One‐Person Moral Twin Earth Cases.Neil Sinhababu - 2019 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 8 (1):16-22.
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  26. Expressivism, Inferentialism, and Saving the Debate.Matthew Chrisman - 2008 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 77 (2):334-358.
    This paper addresses the “creeping minimalism” challenge to quasi-realist forms of expressivism by arguing that the solution suggested by Dreier doesn’t work and proposing an alternative solution based on the different inferential roles of ethical and descriptive judgments.
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  27. The Sense of Incredibility in Ethics.Nicholas Laskowski - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (1):93-115.
    It is often said that normative properties are “just too different” to reduce to other kinds of properties. This suggests that many philosophers find it difficult to believe reductive theses in ethics. I argue that the distinctiveness of the normative concepts we use in thinking about reductive theses offers a more promising explanation of this psychological phenomenon than the falsity of Reductive Realism. To identify the distinctiveness of normative concepts, I use resources from familiar Hybrid views of normative language and (...)
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  28. Criticizing Forms of Life. Weighing Wittgenstein’s Role in Political Theory.Bastian Reichardt - 2018 - Zeitschrift Für Ethik Und Moralphilosophie 1 (2):305-319.
    One branch of practical philosophy in whichWittgenstein’s writings might be fruitful, is political philosophy. The concept “forms of life” gives rise to a pluralistic interpretation of society. However, the question arises how societal conflicts in such a pluralistic view con be solved. We will develop a method of criticism which relies on Wittgenstein’s later work and which combines the normative demands of practical philosophy with methodological standards from ethnology and cultural anthropology.
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  29. The Nature of Normativity: Reply to Holton, Railton, and Lenman.Ralph Wedgwood - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 151 (3):479-491.
    In this article, I reply to the comments that Richard Holton, Peter Railton, and James Lenman have made on my 2007 book "The Nature of Normativity".
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  30. Flexible Contextualism About Deontic Modals: A Puzzle About Information-Sensitivity.J. L. Dowell - 2013 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 56 (2-3):149-178.
    According to a recent challenge to Kratzer's canonical contextualist semantics for deontic modal expressions, no contextualist view can make sense of cases in which such a modal must be information-sensitive in some way. Here I show how Kratzer's semantics is compatible with readings of the targeted sentences that fit with the data. I then outline a general account of how contexts select parameter values for modal expressions and show, in terms of that account, how the needed, contextualist-friendly readings might plausibly (...)
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  31. Impassioned Belief, by Michael Ridge: Oxford: Routledge, 2014, Pp. Xii + 264, £30. [REVIEW]Jack Woods - 2016 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 94 (1):199-202.
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  32. The Case of the Disappearing Semicolon: Expressive-Assertivism and the Embedding Problem.Thorsten Sander - 2018 - Philosophia 46 (4):959-979.
    Expressive-Assertivism, a metaethical theory championed by Daniel Boisvert, is sometimes considered to be a particularly promising form of hybrid expressivism. One of the main virtues of Expressive-Assertivism is that it seems to offer a simple solution to the Frege-Geach problem. I argue, in contrast, that Expressive-Assertivism faces much the same challenges as pure expressivism.
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  33. How Ecumenical Expressivism Confuses the Trivial and the Substantive.Andreas L. Mogensen - 2018 - Analysis 78 (4):666-674.
    I argue that there are cases in which ecumenical expressivism cannot distinguish between endorsement of certain trivial and substantive normative judgments. I consider the extent to which this problem generalizes across different formulations of the ecumenical view. I suggest that we may not be able to escape the problem if we hope to retain the ability to solve the Frege-Geach problem in the way promised by ecumenical expressivism.
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  34. Sticky Situations: 'Force' and Quantifier Domains.Matthew Mandelkern & Jonathan Phillips - forthcoming - Semantics and Linguistic Theory 28.
    When do we judge that someone was forced to do what they did? One relatively well-established finding is that subjects tend to judge that agents were not forced to do actions when those actions violate norms. A surprising discovery of Young & Phillips 2011 is that this effect seems to disappear when we frame the relevant ‘force’-claim in the active rather than passive voice ('X forced Y to φ ' vs. 'Y was forced to φ by X'). Young and Phillips (...)
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  35. Hybrid Dispositionalism and the Law.Teresa Marques - 2019 - In Kevin Toh, David Plunkett & Scott Shapiro (eds.), Dimensions of Normativity: New Essays on Metaethics and Jurisprudence. New York: Oxford University Press.
    Dworkin’s famous argument from legal disagreements poses a problem for legal positivism by undermining the idea that the law can be (just) the result of the practice and attitudes of norm-applying officials. In recent work, the chapter author argued that a hybrid contextualist theory paired with a dispositional theory of value—a hybrid dispositionalism, for short—offers the resources to respond to similar disagreement- based arguments in other evaluative and normative domains. This chapter claims that the theory the author advocates can extend (...)
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  36. Why Believe in Normative Supervenience?Debbie Roberts - 2018 - In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, 13. Oxford University Press.
    According to many, that the normative supervenes on the non-normative is a truism of normative discourse. This chapter argues that those committed to more specific moral, aesthetic, and epistemic supervenience theses should also hold (NS*): As a matter of conceptual necessity, whenever something has a normative property, it has a base property or collection of base properties that metaphysically necessitates the normative one. My main aim is to show that none of the available arguments establish (NS*), or indeed the relevant (...)
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  37. On Parfit’s Ontology.Kian Mintz-Woo - 2018 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 48 (5):707-725.
    Parfit denies that the introduction of reasons into our ontology is costly for his theory. He puts forth two positions to help establish the claim: the Plural Senses View and the Argument from Empty Ontology. I argue that, first, the Plural Senses View for ‘exists’ can be expanded to allow for senses which undermine his ontological claims; second, the Argument from Empty Ontology can be debunked by Platonists. Furthermore, it is difficult to make statements about reasons true unless these statements (...)
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  38. Contextualism, Moral Disagreement, and Proposition Clouds.Jussi Suikkanen - 2019 - In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics 14. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 47-69.
    According to contextualist theories in metaethics, when you use a moral term in a context, the context plays an ineliminable part in determining what natural property will be the semantic value of the term. Furthermore, on subjectivist and relativist versions of these views, it is either the speaker's own moral code or her moral community's moral code that constitutes the reference-fixing context. One standard objection to views of this type is that they fail to enable us to disagree in ordinary (...)
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  39. Learning, Acquired Dispositions and the Humean Theory of Motivation.Christos Douskos - 2018 - Philosophical Papers 47 (2):199-233.
    A central point of contention in the ongoing debate between Humean and anti-Humean accounts of moral motivation concerns the theoretical credentials of the idea of mental states that are cognitive and motivational at the same time. Humeans claim that this idea is incoherent and thereby unintelligible (M. Smith, The Moral Problem, Blackwell 1994). I start by developing a linguistic argument against this claim. The semantics of certain ‘learning to’ and ‘knowing to’ ascriptions points to a dispositional state that has both (...)
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