The freshman objection to expressivism and what to make of it

Ratio 23 (1):87-101 (2010)
Cognitivism is the view that the primary function of moral judgements is to express beliefs that purport to say how things are; expressivism is the contrasting view that their primary function is to express some desire-like state of mind. I shall consider what I call the freshman objection to expressivism. It is pretty uncontroversial that this objection rests on simple misunderstandings. There are nevertheless interesting metaethical lessons to learn from the fact that the freshman objection is prevalent among undergraduates and non-philosophers. It leaves for expressivists two awkward explanatory tasks. Number one is that of explaining why natural selection – which, by expressivism's own lights, favoured moral thought and talk because of their socially useful regulative and coordinating functions – did not favour a stance that would make moral thought and talk more effective in fulfilling these functions. Number two is that of explaining how moral thought and talk survive in cultural evolution, despite the prevalence of the freshman objection and related worries. I conclude that expressivism as a theory of actual moral discourse rather than a revisionist theory is either false or committed to an implausible error theory, according to which ordinary speakers are systematically mistaken about what they are up to when they make moral judgements.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1467-9329.2009.00452.x
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 24,470
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

View all 11 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

89 ( #53,974 of 1,925,564 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

9 ( #96,346 of 1,925,564 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.