Thick concepts, non-cognitivism, and Wittgenstein's rule following considerations

South African Journal of Philosophy 29 (3):286-309 (2010)
Abstract
Non-cognitivists claim that thick concepts can be disentangled into distinct descriptive and evaluative components and that since thick concepts have descriptive shape they can be mastered independently of evaluation. In Non-Cognitivism and Rule-Following, John McDowell uses Wittgenstein’s rule-following considerations to show that such a non-cognitivist view is untenable. In this paper I do several things. I describe the non-cognitivist position in its various forms and explain its driving motivations. I then explain McDowell’s argument against non-cognitivism and the Wittgensteinian considerations upon which it relies, because this has been sufficiently misunderstood by critics and rarely articulated by commentators. After clarifying McDowell’s argument against non-cognitivism, I extend the analysis to show that commentators of McDowell have failed to appreciate his argument and that critical responses have been weak. I argue against three challenges posed to McDowell, and show that the case of thick concepts should lead us to reject non-cognitivism.
Keywords thick concepts  noncognitivism  cognitivism  moral concepts  John McDowell  Ludwig Wittgenstein  rule following  Simon Blackburn  Alan Gibbard  metaethics
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DOI 10.4314/sajpem.v29i3.59143
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