Expressivism and the Syntactic Uniformity of Declarative Sentences

Critica 29 (87):3–51 (1997)
Expressivism is most widely known as a thesis that semantically complements non-cognitivism in meta-ethics: if there are no moral facts to be known, if moral judgements or statements are not capable of being true or false, then the meaning of morally evaluative sentences cannot centrally consist in their having a truth conditional content, expressing a truth-evaluable proposition. But since the truth conditional approach to meaning is widely accepted, non-cognitivists are called upon to offer an alternative theory of meaning for moral sentences. What they frequently offer is expressivism, the view that the meaning of moral sentences must be analysed in terms of special kinds of illocutionary act, for the performance of which these sentences serve. To utter the sentence “Gambling is bad.”, for example, is not to assert the truth-evaluable proposition that gambling is bad (there is no such truth-evaluable item), but rather to condemn gambling and thereby to express one’s moral attitude towards gambling. Whether or not “expressivism” is a good label for this view (“speech-act analysis” might be a better one), there are highly analogous views about sentences other than moral ones, which we might conveniently label in the same way. Thus, as there are expressivists about morals, there might be expressivists about truth, about negation, about causality, about taste, about probability, about modality, about conditionals and more. All these views share the combination of two claims: a denial of the truth-evaluability of (the contents of) the sentences in a certain class X combined with a speech-act-analysis to account for the meaning of the sentences in X . So it would seem to be reasonable to assume that expressivism can be discussed in general for variable X. The aim of this paper is to re-examine and to generalise a certain line of objection against expressivisms, a line prominently taken by Searle (1969) and Geach (1960, 1965)..
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James Lenman (2003). Disciplined Syntacticism and Moral Expressivism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 66 (1):32–57.
Zed Adams (2014). Against Moral Intellectualism. Philosophical Investigations 37 (1):37-56.

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