Contemporary ethical naturalism : a comparative metaethical evaluation of expressivism and Cornell realism

Dissertation, St. Andrews (2005)
Jorn Sonderholm
Aalborg University
This thesis contains a critical discussion of two metaethical theories: expressivism, as developed in the works of Simon Blackburn, and Cornell realism, as presented by Richard Boyd and David Brink. In the introduction, a distinction is made between external and internal accommodation projects for moral discourse and it is argued that the external accommodation project should be guided by acceptance of methodological naturalism. Expressivism and Cornell realism are then subjected to an extended comparative evaluation, and an answer is sought to the question of which of the two should be favoured. The main conclusion of the thesis is that Cornell realism is rationally preferable to expressivism. This conclusion is arrived at by looking at how well the two theories, respectively, explain various deeply embedded features of moral discourse. Explaining such features is what the internal accommodation project for moral discourse consists in. The assertoric surface-form of moral discourse and the supervenience of moral predicates on natural predicates receive special attention in the study. It is argued that expressivism and Cornell realism do equally well on the issue of moral supervenience. But whereas expressivism is still vulnerable to a particular argument from the philosophy of language, Cornell realism can fend off the criticism that most persistently has been directed at it from this area of philosophy. In a comparative evaluation involving the selected issues, Cornell realism therefore fares better than expressivism.
Keywords metaethics  expressivism  Cornell realism  supervenience  moral twin-earth
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