Philosophers' Imprint 13 (23):1-37 (2013)

David Plunkett
Dartmouth College
Tim Sundell
University of Kentucky
In constructing semantic theories of normative and evaluative terms, philosophers have commonly deployed a certain type of disagreement -based argument. The premise of the argument observes the possibility of genuine disagreement between users of a certain normative or evaluative term, while the conclusion of the argument is that, however differently those speakers employ the term, they must mean the same thing by it. After all, if they did not, then they would not really disagree. We argue that in many of the cases in which this argument is deployed, the conclusion not only fails to follow from the premises, but is very likely false. Disagreements between speakers who do not mean the same things by their words are common, genuine, and not easily distinguished from ordinary disagreements over the truth of literally expressed content. We make this case by developing the notion of a metalinguistic negotiation, an exchange in which speakers tacitly negotiate the proper deployment of some linguistic expression in a context. Metalinguistic negotiations express disagreements over information that is conveyed pragmatically and about what concepts should be deployed in the context at hand. We argue that neither of these features poses any obstacle to metalinguistic negotiations serving to express genuine, substantive disagreements that can be well worth engaging in. Contrary to what has been widely assumed in the literature, many normative and evaluative disputes—among ordinary speakers and even among philosophers themselves—may be of exactly this type, a conclusion with important consequences for both the subject matter and the methodology of metanormative theory
Keywords Disagreement  Semantics  Metalinguistic  Disputes
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,512
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

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

A Guided Tour Of Conceptual Engineering and Conceptual Ethics.David Plunkett & Herman Cappelen - 2020 - In Herman Cappelen, David Plunkett & Alexis Burgess (eds.), Conceptual Engineering and Conceptual Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 1-26.
Conceptual Ethics I.Alexis Burgess & David Plunkett - 2013 - Philosophy Compass 8 (12):1091-1101.
Which Concepts Should We Use?: Metalinguistic Negotiations and The Methodology of Philosophy.David Plunkett - 2015 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 58 (7-8):828-874.

View all 171 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

How Are Thick Terms Evaluative?Brent G. Kyle - 2013 - Philosophers' Imprint 13:1-20.
Epistemic Disagreements: A Solution for Contextualists.Giovanni Mion - 2013 - Studia Philosophica Estonica 6 (1):15-23.
Thick Concepts and Underdetermination.Pekka Väyrynen - 2013 - In Simon Kirchin (ed.), Thick Concepts. Oxford University Press. pp. 136-160.
Irreducibly Normative Properties.Chris Heathwood - 2015 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 10:216–244.
Faultless Disagreement.Max Kölbel - 2004 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 104 (1):53-73.
Possessing Moral Concepts.David Merli - 2009 - Philosophia 37 (3):535-556.
Disagreement, Error, and an Alternative to Reference Magnetism.Timothy Sundell - 2012 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (4):743 - 759.
The Limits of Sentimentalism.François Schroeter - 2006 - Ethics 116 (2):337-361.
Evolutionary Debunking Arguments.Guy Kahane - 2011 - Noûs 45 (1):103-125.


Added to PP index

Total views
867 ( #8,065 of 2,520,893 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
55 ( #14,795 of 2,520,893 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes