Disentangling the thick concept argument

Critics argue that non-cognitivism cannot adequately account for the existence and nature of some thick moral concepts. They use the existence of thick concepts as a lever in an argument against non-cognitivism, here called the Thick Concept Argument (TCA). While TCA is frequently invoked, it is unfortunately rarely articulated. In this paper, TCA is first reconstructed on the basis of John McDowell’s formulation of the argument (from 1981), and then evaluated in the light of several possible non-cognitivist responses. In general, TCA assumes too much about what a non-cognitivist is (or must be) committed to. There are several non-cognitivist theories, and only some fit the view attacked by TCA. Furthermore, TCA rests on a contestable intuition about a thought experiment, here called the External Standpoint Experiment (ESE). It is concluded that TCA is remarkably weak, given how frequently the argument is invoked
Keywords thick concepts  moral concepts  non-cognitivism  disentangling  John McDowell  Simon Blackburn
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DOI 10.1515/SATS.2007.63
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PhilPapers Archive Olle Blomberg, Disentangling the thick concept argument
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John McDowell (1979). Virtue and Reason. The Monist 62 (3):331-350.

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