Confusion of Tongues: A Theory of Normative Language, by Stephen Finlay [Book Review]

Ethics 127 (1):281-288 (2016)
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Stephen Finlay’s Confusion of Tongues is a bold and sophisticated book. The overarching goal is metaphysical: to reductively analyze normative facts, properties, and relations in terms of non-normative facts, properties, and relations. But the method is linguistic: to first provide a reductive analysis of the corresponding bits of normative language, with a particular focus on ‘good’, ‘ought’, and ‘reason’. The gap between language and reality is then bridged by taking linguistic analysis as a guide to conceptual analysis, and conceptual analysis as a guide to metaphysical analysis. In this review, I consider three challenges to Finlay’s project that deserve more attention than they receive in the book. The first concerns Finlay’s claim to have provided a *reductive* theory of normative language, the second concerns his claim to have provided a *unified* theory of normative language, and the third concerns his claim to have provided a *correct* theory of normative language.

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Daniel Fogal
New York University

Citations of this work

‘Ought’-contextualism beyond the parochial.Alex Worsnip - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (11):3099-3119.
Quasi-Naturalism and the Problem of Alternative Normative Concepts.Camil Golub - 2022 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 19 (5):474-500.
Reply to Worsnip, Dowell, and Koehn.Stephen Finlay - 2020 - Analysis 80 (1):131-147.

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References found in this work

Reasons, Reason, and Context.Daniel Fogal - 2016 - In Errol Lord & Barry Maguire (eds.), Weighing Reasons. Oxford University Press.
How To Be a Moral Platonist.Knut Olav Skarsune - 2015 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics (10).

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