Intuitions, Meaning, and Normativity: Why Intuition Theory Supports a Non‐Descriptivist Metaethic

Matthew Bedke
University of British Columbia
Non-descriptivists in metaethics should say more about intuitions. For one popular theory has it that case-based intuitions are in the business of correctly categorizing or classifying merely by bringing to bear a semantic or conceptual competence. If so, then the fact that all normative predicates have case-based intuitions involving them shows that they too are in the business of categorizing or classifying things. This favors a descriptivist position in metaethics—normative predicates have descriptive content—and disfavors a purely non-descriptivist position, like pure expressivism. However, we can say more. We can distinguish two different sorts of intuitional state, A-grade intuitions and B-grade intuitions, based on a cluster of properties that are distinctive of each. While a hypothesis about categorization best explains the cluster of properties enjoyed by A-grade intuitions, it does not best explain the cluster of properties enjoyed by B-grade intuitions. Indeed, a non-categorizational, attitude-expressive hypothesis about the relevant meanings best explains B-grade intuitions. And intuitions involving thin normative predicates are B-grade. So intuition theory supports non-descriptivism, not descriptivism, about thin normative predicates
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DOI 10.1111/phpr.12187
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