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. (shrink)
Which concepts should we use to think and talk about the world and to do all of the other things that mental and linguistic representation facilitates? This is the guiding question of the field that we call ‘conceptual ethics’. Conceptual ethics is not often discussed as its own systematic branch of normative theory. A case can nevertheless be made that the field is already quite active, with contributions coming in from areas as diverse as fundamental metaphysics and social/political philosophy. In (...) this pair of papers, we try to unify the field, reflecting on its basic nature, structure, and methodology. (shrink)
This paper is about philosophical disputes where the literal content of what speakers communicate concerns such object-level issues as ground, supervenience, or real definition. It is tempting to think that such disputes straightforwardly express disagreements about these topics. In contrast to this, I suggest that, in many such cases, the disagreement that is expressed is actually one about which concepts should be employed. I make this case as follows. First, I look at non-philosophical, everyday disputes where a speaker employs a (...) metalinguistic usage of a term. This is where a speaker uses a term to express a view about the meaning of that term, or, relatedly, how to correctly use that term. A metalinguistic negotiation is a metalinguistic dispute that concerns a normative issue about what a word should mean, or, similarly, about how it should be used, rather than the descriptive issue about what it does mean. I argue that the same.. (shrink)
Which concepts should we use to think and talk about the world, and to do all of the other things that mental and linguistic representation facilitates? This is the guiding question of the field that we call ‘conceptual ethics’. Conceptual ethics is not often discussed as its own systematic branch of normative theory. A case can nevertheless be made that the field is already quite active, with contributions coming in from areas as diverse as fundamental metaphysics and social/political philosophy. In (...) this pair of papers, we try to unify the field, reflecting on its basic nature, structure, and methodology. (shrink)
Conceptual engineering and conceptual ethics are branches of philosophy concerned with questions about how to assess and ameliorate our representational devices (such as concepts and words). It's a part of philosophy concerned with questions about which concepts we should use (and why), how concepts can be improved, when concepts should be abandoned, and how proposals for amelioration can be implemented. Central parts of the history of philosophy have engaged with these issues, but the focus of this volume is on applications (...) to work in contemporary philosophy of language and mind, epistemology, gender and race theory, ethics, philosophy of science, and philosophical logic. This is the first volume devoted entirely to conceptual engineering and conceptual ethics. The volume explores the possibilities, benefits, problems, and applications of conceptual engineering and conceptual ethics. It consists of twenty chapters written by leading philosophers. (shrink)
In this article, we propose a novel account of general jurisprudence by situating it within the broader project of metanormative inquiry. We begin by showing how general jurisprudence is parallel to another well-known part of that project, namely, metaethics. We then argue that these projects all center on the same task: explaining how a certain part of thought, talk, and reality fits into reality overall. Metalegal inquiry aims to explain how legal thought, talk, and reality fit into reality. General jurisprudence (...) is the part of metalegal inquiry that focuses on universal legal thought, talk, and reality. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that facts about the history or genealogy of concepts (facts about what I call “conceptual history”) can matter for normative inquiry. I argue that normative and evaluative issues about concepts (such as issues about which concepts an agent should use, in a given context) matter for all forms of inquiry (including normative inquiry) and that conceptual history can help us when we engage in thinking about these normative and evaluative issues (which I call issues in (...) “conceptual ethics”). My aim in making this argument is to develop a schematic framework for thinking about the relationship between conceptual history and normative inquiry. The framework puts pressure on those who, often unreflectively or implicitly, dismiss the potential relevance of conceptual history to normative inquiry. At the same time, the framework can be seen as presenting a challenge to those drawn to more radical views about the relationship between conceptual history and normative inquiry. The challenge is this: if one wants a more ambitious model of the relevance of conceptual history to normative inquiry than what I provide in this paper, one needs to explain what justifies such a model. (shrink)
Conceptual engineering is a newly flourishing branch of philosophy which investigates problems with our concepts and considers how they might be ameliorated: 'truth', for instance, is susceptible to paradox, and it's not clear what 'race' stands for. This is the first collective exploration of possibilities and problems of conceptual engineering.
Speech and thought about what the law is commonly function in practical ways, to guide or assess behavior. These functions have often been seen as problematic for legal positivism in the tradition of H.L.A. Hart. One recent response is to advance an expressivist analysis of legal statements (Toh), which faces its own, familiar problems. This paper advances a rival, positivist-friendly account of legal statements which we call “quasi-expressivist”, explicitly modeled after Finlay’s metaethical theory of moral statements. This consists in a (...) descriptivist, “rule-relational” semantics combined with a pragmatic account of the expressive and practical functions of legal discourse. We argue that this approach is at least as well-equipped as expressivism to explain the motivational and prescriptive features of “internal” legal statements, as well as a fundamental kind of legal disagreement, while being better positioned to account for various “external” uses of the same language. We develop this theory in a Hartian framework, and in the final part of the paper argue (particularly against Toh’s expressivist interpretation) that Hart’s own views in The Concept of Law are best reconstructed along such quasi-expressivist lines. (shrink)
Morality seems important, in the sense that there are practical reasons — at least for most of us, most of the time — to be moral. A central theoretical motivation for consequentialism is that it appears clear that there are practical reasons to promote good outcomes, but mysterious why we should care about non-consequentialist moral considerations or how they could be genuine reasons to act. In this paper we argue that this theoretical motivation is mistaken, and that because many arguments (...) for consequentialism rely upon it, the mistake substantially weakens the overall case for consequentialism. We argue that there is indeed a theoretical connection between good states and reasons to act, because good states are those it is fitting to desire and there is a conceptual connection between the fittingness of a motive and reasons to perform the acts it motivates. But while some of our motives are directed at states, others are directed at acts themselves. We contend that just as the fittingness of desires for states generates reasons to promote the good, the fittingness of these act-directed motives generates reasons to do other things. Moreover, we argue that an act’s moral status consists in the fittingness of act-directed feelings of obligation to perform or avoid performing it, so the connection between fitting motives and reasons to act explains reasons to be moral whether or not morality directs us to promote the good. This, we contend, de-mystifies how there could be non-consequentialist reasons that are both moral and practical. (shrink)
According to Scott Shapiro’s Moral Aim Thesis, it is an essential feature of the law that it has a moral aim. In short, for Shapiro, this means that the law has the constitutive aim of providing morally good solutions to morally significant social problems in cases where other, less formal ways of guiding the activity of agents won’t work. In this article, I argue that legal positivists should reject the Moral Aim Thesis. In short, I argue that although there are (...) versions of the Moral Aim Thesis that are arguably compatible with legal positivism, all of the different ways of making it compatible face serious philosophical difficulties. Following a discussion of what these difficulties are, I provide an alternative to the Moral Aim Thesis, a thesis that I call the ‘Represented-as-Moral Thesis’. This thesis avoids the problems that I raise for the Moral Aim Thesis and better resonates with some of the core intuitions behind legal positivism. Furthermore, a version of Shapiro’s Planning Theory of Law that is developed with the Represented-as-Moral Thesis (as opposed to the Moral Aim Thesis) can explain all of the things that Shapiro uses the Moral Aim Thesis to explain. (shrink)
Many of us care about the existence of ethical facts because they appear crucial to making sense of our practical lives. On one tempting line of thought, this idea can also play a central role in justifying our belief in those facts. David Enoch has developed this thought into a formidable new proposal in moral epistemology: that the deliberative indispensability of ethical facts gives us epistemic justification for believing in such facts. This chapter argues that Enoch’s proposal fails because it (...) conflicts with a central fact about epistemic justification: that the norms of epistemic justification have the content that they do in part because of some positive connection between those norms and the truth of the beliefs that these norms govern. Alternatives to Enoch’s attempt to defend the idea that deliberative indispensability confers epistemic justification fail for parallel reasons. The chapter concludes that deliberative indispensability does not provide epistemic justification. (shrink)
In “How Facts Make Law” and other recent work, Mark Greenberg argues that legal positivists cannot develop a viable constitutive account of law that meets what he calls the “the rational-relation requirement.” He argues that this gives us reason to reject positivism in favor of antipositivism. In this paper, I argue that Greenberg is wrong: positivists can in fact develop a viable constitutive account of law that meets the rational-relation requirement. I make this argument in two stages. First, I offer (...) an account of the rational-relation requirement. Second, I put forward a viable positivist account of law that I argue meets this requirement. The account that I propose is a version of Scott Shapiro’s Planning Theory of Law. The version of Shapiro’s account that I propose combines (1) the account of concepts and conceptual analysis put forward by David Chalmers and Frank Jackson with (2) the account of the concept LEGAL INSTITUTION (and its conceptual connections to the concept LEGAL NORM) that we get from a certain reading of Shapiro’s Planning Theory. In addition to providing a compelling response to Greenberg’s argument in “How Facts Make Law,” I argue that the explanation for why my response to Greenberg works underscores one of the central problems facing legal antipositivism: namely, its lack of a convincing account of the nature of legal institutions. (shrink)
At least since the late Early Modern period, the Holy Grail of ethics, for many philosophers, has been to say how ethical values could have a kind of protagorean objectivity: values are to be both fully objective as values and yet depend on us by their very nature. More than any other contemporary foundational approach it is “constructivist” theories, such as those due to Rawls, Scanlon, and Korsgaard, which have consciously sought to explain how protagorean objectivity is a real possibility. (...) Yet there remains considerable uncertainty about what the various versions of constructivism have in common, what, if anything, “constructivism” as a general approach is supposed to accomplish, and whether, if it is a general approach, it amounts to a distinctive foundational view. (shrink)
One of the central debates in legal philosophy is the debate over legal positivism. Roughly, positivists say that law is ultimately grounded in social facts alone, whereas antipositivists say it is ultimately grounded in both social facts and moral facts. In this paper, I argue that philosophers involved in the dispute over legal positivism sometimes employ distinct concepts when they use the term “law” and pick out different things in the world using these concepts. Because of this, what positivists say (...) might well then be true of one thing (e.g., law1) but false of another (e.g., law2). Accepting this thesis does not mean that the philosophers engaged in this dispute are “talking past each other” or engaged in a “merely verbal dispute” that lacks substance. I argue that participants in this dispute are sometimes arguing about what they should mean by the word “law” in the context at hand. This involves putting forward competing proposals about which concept the word “law” should be used to express. This is an issue in what I call “conceptual ethics.” This argument in conceptual ethics can be well worth having, given the connotations that the term “law” plays in many contexts, ranging from legal argument to political philosophy to social-scientific inquiry. Sometimes, I claim, philosophers (and ordinary speakers) engage in such argument tacitly by competing “metalinguistic” usages of the term “law”—usages of the term that express a view (in this case, a normative view) about the meaning of the word itself. In such cases, speakers on different sides of the positivism debate might in fact both speak truly, in terms of the literal (semantic) content of what they both say. Nonetheless, they may disagree in virtue of views in conceptual ethics about “law” that they express through the nonliteral content of what they say. These views in conceptual ethics often reflect further disagreements about issues that are not ultimately about words or concepts. These include foundational ones in ethics and politics about how we should live and what kind of institutions should govern our lives. My metalinguistic account of the dispute over legal positivism better equips us to identify what such issues are and to engage them more fruitfully. (shrink)
One of Ronald Dworkin's most distinctive claims in legal philosophy is that law is an interpretative concept, a special kind of concept whose correct application depends neither on fixed criteria nor on an instance-identifying decision procedure but rather on the normative or evaluative facts that best justify the total set of practices in which that concept is used. The main argument that Dworkin gives for interpretivism about some conceptis a disagreement-based argument. We argue here that Dworkin's disagreement-based argument relies on (...) a mistaken premise about the nature of disagreement. We propose an alternative analysis of the type of disputeseeming variation casesthat Dworkin uses to motivate the idea of interpretative concepts. We begin by observing that genuine disagreements can be expressed via a range of linguistic mechanisms, many of which do not require that speakers literally assert and deny one and the same proposition. We focus in particular on what we call disputes in which speakers do not express the same concepts by their words but rather negotiate how words should be used and thereby negotiate which of a range of competing concepts should be used in that context. We claim that this view has quite general theoretical advantages over Dworkin's interpretivism about seeming variation cases and about the relevant class of legal disputes in particular. This paper thus has two interlocking goals: (1) to undermine one of Dworkin's core arguments for interpretivism, and (2) to provide the foundations for a noninterpretivist alternative account of an important class of legal disputes. (shrink)
This paper and its companion provide a general introduction to Scott Shapiro’s Planning Theory of Law as developed in his recent book Legality. The Planning Theory encompasses both an account of the nature of legal institutions and an account of the nature of legal norms. This first paper concerns the account of legal institutions. The second concerns the account of legal norms.
Philosophers often hold that the aim of conceptual analysis is to discover the representational content of a given concept such as freewill, belief, or law. In From Metaphysics to Ethics and other recent work, Frank Jackson has developed a theory of conceptual analysis that is one of the most advanced systematizations of this widespread idea. I argue that this influential way of characterizing conceptual analysis is too narrow. I argue that it is possible that an expressivist account could turn out (...) to be correct as a genuine conceptual analysis of a genuine concept. I claim that since an expressivist analysis does not aim to discover the representational content of a given concept—and, indeed, might itself be based on the idea that the concept in question is not even representational in nature—the possibility of expressivist conceptual analysis shows that Jackson’s theory of conceptual analysis is incomplete as it currently stands. I conclude that Jackson needs to either shift his basic understanding of the nature of conceptual analysis or commit to a particular normative reinterpretation of his project. (shrink)
This paper and its companion (‘‘The Planning Theory of Law I: The Nature of Legal Institutions’’) provide a general introduction to Scott Shapiro’s Planning Theory of Law as developed in his recent book Legality. The Planning Theory encompasses both an account of the nature of legal institutions and an account of the nature of legal norms. The first paper concerns the account of legal institutions. This paper concerns the account of legal norms.
One important trend in political philosophy is to hold that non-human animals don't directly place demands of justice on us. Another important trend is to give considerations of justice normative priority in our general normative theorising about social/political institutions. This situation is problematic, given the actual ethical standing of non-human animals. Either we need a theory of justice that gives facts about non-human animals a non-derivative explanatory role in the determination of facts about what justice involves, or else we should (...) be wary of the default normative priority that considerations of justice have in much of contemporary political philosophy. This discussion brings out important general methodological points tied to the role of concept and word choice in normative theorising about our social/political institutions. These methodological points, I argue, matter for a range of discussions in contemporary political philosophy, including those about global justice. (shrink)
This Handbook surveys the contemporary state of the burgeoning field of metaethics. Forty-four chapters, all written exclusively for this volume, provide expert introductions to: 1) the central research programs that frame metaethical discussions, 2) the central explanatory challenges, resources, and strategies that inform contemporary work in those research programs, an 3) debates over the status of metaethics, and the appropriate methods to use in metaethical inquiry. This is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in metaethics, from those coming (...) to it for the first time to those actively pursuing research in the field. (shrink)