Canadian Journal of Philosophy 33 (4):563-574 (2003)

Michael Ridge
University of Edinburgh
Meta-ethical non-cognitivism makes two claims—a negative one and a positive one. The negative claim is that moral utterances do not express beliefs which provide the truth-conditions for those utterances. The positive claim is that the primary function of such utterances is to express certain of the speaker’s desire-like states of mind. Non-cognitivism is officially a theory about the meanings of moral words, but non-cognitivists also maintain that moral states of mind are themselves at least partially constituted by desire-like states to which moral utterances give voice. Non-cognitivists need a plausible account of what distinguishes whims, addictions and cravings from genuinely moral judgments. For while non-cognitivists maintain that in a suitably broad sense moral judgments just are constituted by desire-like states they also insist that not any old desire constitutes a genuinely moral judgment. Since the challenge is to demarcate what is distinctive about moral attitudes we might usefully call this the demarcation challenge. One common strategy for meeting the demarcation challenge is to focus on desires directed at getting others to share one’s own desires and emotions. This strategy has some of its earliest roots in Charles Stevenson’s pioneering work. Stevenson argued that there is a ‘do so as well!’ aspect to moral discourse. On Stevenson’s account, in saying something is morally good a speaker not only expresses her own attitude of approval of the object of evaluation but also urges her interlocutors to share that attitude, thereby expressing a desire that they ‘do so as well.’ More recently, in Ruling Passions, Simon Blackburn emphasizes the importance of what he refers to as a ‘staircase of practical and emotional ascent’
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s) 0045-5091
DOI cjphil200333417
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: 59,968
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Principia Ethica.Evander Bradley McGilvary - 1904 - Philosophical Review 13 (3):351.
The Moral Problem.James Lenman - 1994 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 1 (1):125-126.
Studies in the Way of Words.D. E. Over - 1990 - Philosophical Quarterly 40 (160):393-395.
The Myth of Conventional Implicature.Kent Bach - 1999 - Linguistics and Philosophy 22 (4):327-366.

View all 18 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

A Dual Aspect Account of Moral Language.Caj Strandberg - 2012 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (1):87-122.
The Pragmatics of Moral Motivation.Caj Strandberg - 2011 - The Journal of Ethics 15 (4):341-369.
Making Quasi-Realists Admit of Fundamental Moral Fallibility.Garrett Lam - 2020 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 98 (2):294-303.
Recent Work in Expressivism.Neil Sinclair - 2009 - Analysis 69 (1):136-147.

View all 10 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Ayer and Stevenson’s Epistemological Emotivisms.Nathan Nobis - 2004 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 4 (1):59-79.
An Analysis of the Cognitivist - Non-Cognitivist.William Noel Whisner - 1970 - Dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin
Bad Faith.Michael Hymers - 1989 - Philosophy 64 (249):397 - 402.
Non-Cognitivism and Motivation.Nick Zangwill - 2009 - In Constantine Sandis (ed.), New Essays on the Explanation of Action. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 416--24.
The Pragmatic Circle.Kepa Korta & John Perry - 2008 - Synthese 165 (3):347 - 357.
The Constitutive Metaphysics of Ethics.Alan Gewirth - 1993 - Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 98 (4):489 - 504.


Added to PP index

Total views
69 ( #149,710 of 2,433,271 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #293,577 of 2,433,271 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes