If You're Quasi-Explaining, You're Quasi-Losing

In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics 16. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)

Abstract

Normative discourse frequently involves explanation. For example, we tell children that hitting is wrong because it hurts people. In a recent paper, Selim Berker argues that to account for this kind of explanation, expressivists need an account of normative grounding. Against this, I argue that expressivists should eschew grounding and stick to a more pragmatic picture of explanation, one that focuses on how we use explanatory speech acts to communicate information. I propose that the standard form of a normative explanation is a generalizing explanation, one which shows a particular moral injunction to follow from a more general injunction. I use Marc Lange’s account of unifying explanations in mathematics as a model for the canonical form of a normative explanation, but also to establish that logical entailment can be explanatory, so long as premises entailing the conclusion answer appropriately to our interests. An additional upshot of the resulting view is that it paves the way for a purely metaphysical solution to the problem of creeping minimalism. Quasireal properties are those that, unlike real properties, stand outside of the metaphysical hierarchy of grounding relations.

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