Homage to Hare: Ecumenism and the Frege‐Geach Problem

Ethics 120 (1):8-35 (2009)
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The Frege‐Geach problem is probably the most serious worry for the prospects of any kind of metaethical expressivism. In a recent article, Ridge suggests that a new version of expressivism, a view he calls ecumenical expressivism, can avoid the Frege‐Geach problem.1 In contrast to pure expressivism, ecumenical expressivism is the view that moral utterances function to express not only desire‐like states of mind but also beliefs with propositional content. Whereas pure expressivists’ solutions to the Frege‐Geach problem usually have rested on some kind of “logic of attitudes,” Ridge argues that it is the expressed belief in the ecumenical machinery that holds the key. Although Ridge’s ecumenical expressivism is promising, this essay argues that his solution is flawed. However, this does not mean that every form of ecumenical expressivism is a failure. Ridge briefly contrasts his view with the kind of view Hare advanced but argues that Hare cannot make use of the ecumenical machinery.2 I argue that this is incorrect. Not only is an ecumenical reading of Hare very plausible and something that establishes him as an important forerunner of today’s ecumenical trend in metaethics, but, more important, it offers guidance where Ridge goes wrong. It solves the Frege‐Geach problem in a way that meets the criticism of more standard solutions head‐on, and it seems to be able to handle the most pressing problems for ecumenical theories. The ecumenical theory that emerges is therefore powerful enough to establish itself as one of the most (if not the most) plausible form of ecumenism on the market. The first part of this article is largely concerned with advancing an ecumenical reading of Hare’s The Language of Morals and the kind of solution it offers in response to the Frege‐Geach problem. Some of the problems such a reading encounters will be addressed as we outline the theory. The most serious worries, however, are addressed in the final part of the essay.



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John Eriksson
University of Gothenburg

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