Was Mill a non-cognitivist?

Southern Journal of Philosophy 51 (2):206-223 (2013)
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Abstract

In this paper, I examine the presumption that Mill endorses a form of metaethical non-cognitivism. I argue that the evidence traditionally cited for this interpretation is not convincing, and suggest that we should instead remain open to a cognitivist reading. I begin, in Section I, by laying out the ‘received view’ of Mill on the status of practical norms, as given by Alan Ryan in the 1970s. There is, I claim in Sections II and III, no firm textual evidence for this reading of Mill: his remarks on ‘art’ and ‘science’ do not show the metaethical commitments they have been taken to. Neither is there firm textual evidence for a cognitivist reading. However, I suggest in Section IV, a non-cognitivist interpretation suffers from the fault of anachronism, and is difficult to reconcile with a clear commitment in Utilitarianism IV.3 to the possibility of evidence being given for the desirability of pleasure. A cognitivist reading would not suffer from these faults, and on that basis, I conclude that we should think further about what a cognitivist reading of Mill might amount to.

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Christopher Macleod
Lancaster University

Citations of this work

Truth and assertion: rules vs aims.Neri Marsili - 2018 - Analysis 78 (4):638–648.
John Stuart mill.Fred Wilson - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Mill's Antirealism.Christopher Macleod - 2016 - Philosophical Quarterly 66 (263):261-279.
Mill’s Moral Standard.Ben Eggleston - 2016 - In Christopher Macleod & Dale E. Miller (eds.), A Companion to Mill. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. pp. 358-373.

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References found in this work

Utilitarianism without Consequentialism.Daniel Jacobson - 2008 - Philosophical Review 117 (2):159-191.

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