Noncognitivism in Metaethics and the Philosophy of Action

Erkenntnis 88 (1):95-115 (2020)
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Noncognitivism about normative judgment is the view that normative judgment is a distinctive kind of mental state, identical neither to belief or desire, but desire-like in its functional role and direction of fit. Noncognitivism about intention (also called the “distinctive practical attitude” theory) is the view that intention is a distinctive kind of mental state, identical neither to belief or desire, but desire-like in its functional role and direction of fit. While these theories are alike in several ways, they have rarely been discussed in concert. This paper studies the relation between these two theories, focusing on the question of whether noncognitivism about intention faces an analogue of the well-known Frege-Geach problem for noncognitivism about normative judgment. I argue that whether it faces the Frege-Geach problem depends on how it treats the distinction between what Anscombe called expressions of intention and personal predictions. I show that there is substantial pressure to treat that distinction as semantic, and that a variant of the Frege-Geach problem arises for versions of noncognitivism about intention that go this route. Yet some philosophers of action may be willing to resist this pressure, and I develop a pragmatic account of the distinction that would allow such philosophers to avoid the Frege-Geach problem altogether. I argue that this pragmatic account has significant independent appeal. Notably, it provides a way for noncognitivists about intention to undercut the force of a recent argument for cognitivism due to Berislav Marušić and John Schwenkler.

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Author's Profile

Samuel Asarnow
Macalester College

Citations of this work

Intention.Kieran Setiya - 2009 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

The moral problem.Michael Smith - 1994 - Cambridge, Mass., USA: Blackwell.
Rationality Through Reasoning.John Broome (ed.) - 2013 - Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Intention, plans, and practical reason.Michael Bratman - 1987 - Cambridge: Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Thinking how to live.Allan Gibbard - 2003 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

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