The word 'ought' is one of the core normative terms, but it is also a modal word. In this book Matthew Chrisman develops a careful account of the semantics of 'ought' as a modal operator, and uses this to motivate a novel inferentialist account of why ought-sentences have the meaning that they have. This is a metanormative account that agrees with traditional descriptivist theories in metaethics that specifying the truth-conditions of normative sentences is a central part of the explanation of (...) their meaning. But Chrisman argues that this leaves important metasemantic questions about what it is in virtue of which ought-sentences have the meanings that they have unanswered. His appeal to inferentialism aims to provide a viable anti-descriptivist but also anti-expressivist answer to these questions. (shrink)
We develop a novel solution to the negation version of the Frege-Geach problem by taking up recent insights from the bilateral programme in logic. Bilateralists derive the meaning of negation from a primitive *B-type* inconsistency involving the attitudes of assent and dissent. Some may demand an explanation of this inconsistency in simpler terms, but we argue that bilateralism’s assumptions are no less explanatory than those of *A-type* semantics that only require a single primitive attitude, but must stipulate inconsistency elsewhere. Based (...) on these insights, we develop a version of B-type expressivism called *inferential expressivism*. This is a novel semantic framework that characterises meanings by inferential roles that define which *attitudes* one can *infer* from the use of terms. We apply this framework to normative vocabulary, thereby solving the Frege-Geach problem generally and comprehensively. Our account moreover includes a semantics for epistemic modals, thereby also explaining normative terms under epistemic modals. (shrink)
Advocates of Expressivism about basically any kind of language are best-served by abandoning a traditional content-centric approach to semantic theorizing, in favor of an update-centric or dynamic approach (or so this paper argues). The type of dynamic approach developed here — in contrast to the content-centric approach — is argued to yield canonical, if not strictly classical, "explanations" of the core semantic properties of the connectives. (The cases on which I focus most here are negation and disjunction.) I end (...) the paper by describing a distinctive sense in which mental states might play a fundamental role in the practice of semantic theorizing (as I understand it), and I connect this to a distinctive account of the pragmatic function of, e.g., a normatively laden claim in discourse. (shrink)
Relativism and expressivism offer two different semantic frameworks for grappling with a similar cluster of issues. What is the difference between these two frameworks? Should they be viewed as rivals? If so, how should we choose between them? This chapter sheds light on these questions. After providing an overview of relativism and expressivism, I discuss three potential choice points: their relation to truth conditional semantics, their pictures of belief and communication, and their explanations of disagreement.
I offer a new theory of faultless disagreement, according to which truth is absolute (non-relative) but can still be non-objective. What's relative is truth-aptness: a sentence like ‘Vegemite is tasty’ (V) can be truth-accessible and bivalent in one context but not in another. Within a context in which V fails to be bivalent, we can affirm that there is no issue of truth or falsity about V, still disputants, affirming and denying V, were not at fault, since, in their context (...) of assertion V was bivalent. This theory requires a theory of assertion that is a form of cognitive expressivism. (shrink)
The basic idea of expressivism is that for some sentences ‘P’, believing that P is not just a matter of having an ordinary descriptive belief. This is a way of capturing the idea that the meaning of some sentences either exceeds their factual/descriptive content or doesn’t consist in any particular factual/descriptive content at all, even in context. The paradigmatic application for expressivism is within metaethics, and holds that believing that stealing is wrong involves having some kind of desire-like (...) attitude, with world-tomind direction of fit, either in place of, or in addition to, being in a representational state of mind with mind-to-world direction of fit. Because expressivists refer to the state of believing that P as the state of mind ‘expressed’ by ‘P’, this view can also be described as the view that ‘stealing is wrong’ expresses a state of mind that involves a desire-like attitude instead of, or in addition to, a representational state of mind. According to some expressivists - unrestrained expressivists, as I’ll call them - there need be no special relationship among the different kinds of state of mind that can be expressed by sentences. Pick your favorite state of mind, the unrestrained expressivist allows, and there could, at least in principle, be a sentence that expressed it. Expressivists who seem to have been unrestrained plausibly include Ayer in Language, Truth, and Logic, and Simon Blackburn in many of his writings, including his , , and.. (shrink)
Expressivists explain the expression relation which obtains between sincere moral assertion and the conative or affective attitude thereby expressed by appeal to the relation which obtains between sincere assertion and belief. In fact, they often explicitly take the relation between moral assertion and their favored conative or affective attitude to be exactly the same as the relation between assertion and the belief thereby expressed. If this is correct, then we can use the identity of the expression relation in the two (...) cases to test the expressivist account as a descriptive or hermeneutic account of moral discourse. I formulate one such test, drawing on a standard explanation of Moore's paradox. I show that if expressivism is correct as a descriptive account of moral discourse, then we should expect versions of Moore's paradox where we explicitly deny that we possess certain affective or conative attitudes. I then argue that the constructions that mirror Moore's paradox are not incoherent. It follows that expressivism is either incorrect as a hermeneutic account of moral discourse or that the expression relation which holds between sincere moral assertion and affective or conative attitudes is not identical to the relation which holds between sincere non-moral assertion and belief. A number of objections are canvassed and rejected. (shrink)
It is often claimed that there is an explanatory divide between an expressivist account of normative discourse and a realist conception of normativity: more precisely, that expressivism and realism offer conflicting explanations of (i) the metaphysical structure of the normative realm, (ii) the connection between normative judgment and motivation, (iii) our normative beliefs and any convergence thereof, or (iv) the content of normative thoughts and claims. In this paper I argue that there need be no such explanatory conflict. Given (...) a minimalist approach to the relevant metaphysical and semantic notions, expressivism is compatible with any explanation that would be acceptable as a general criterion for realism. (shrink)
In contemporary metaethics, various versions of hybrid expressivism have been proposed according to which moral sentences express both non-cognitive attitudes and beliefs. One important advantage with such positions, its proponents argue, is that they, in contrast to pure expressivism, have a straightforward way of avoiding the Frege-Geach problem. In this paper, I provide a systematic examination of different versions of hybrid expressivism with particular regard to how they are assumed to evade this problem. The major conclusion is (...) that none of these views succeeds to provide both a fully satisfying interpretation of moral sentences and a convincing response to the Frege-Geach problem. I end by briefly considering alternative hybrid views that employ the notion of conventional or conversational implicature. (shrink)
Expressivists traditionally explain normative supervenience by saying it is a conceptual truth. I argue against this tradition in two steps. First, I show the modal claim that stands in need of explanation has been stated imprecisely. Classic arguments in metaethics for normative supervenience and those that rely on it as a premise presuppose a constraint on the supervenience base that is rarely (if ever) made explicit: the repeatability of the non-normative properties on which the normative supervenes. Non-normative properties are repeatable (...) when it is possible for numerically distinct individuals to share them. Second, I show if the modal truth that stands in need of explanation entails that there are individuals exactly alike in repeatable non-normative respects that cannot normatively differ, then standard expressivist accounts of normative supervenience as a conceptual truth are unsuccessful. Expressivist metasemantics for normative terms, together with constitutive facts about the non-cognitive attitudes essentially involved in normative thought, strongly suggest that repeatable supervenience could not be a conceptual truth. I argue, finally, that although repeatable supervenience bears the marks of a conceptual truth, expressivists should be content to treat it as an ordinary normative truth, and to explain it the same way they explain other normative truths. (shrink)
Epistemic expressivism is the application of a nexus of ideas, which is prominent in ethical theory (more specifically, metaethics), to parallel issues in epistemological theory (more specifically, metaepistemology). Here, in order to help those new to the debate come to grips with epistemic expressivism and recent discussions of it, I first briefly present this nexus of ideas as it occurs in ethical expressivism. Then, I explain why and how some philosophers have sought to extend it to a (...) version of epistemic expressivism. Finally, I consider a number of objections and replies with the aim of giving the reader the tools needed to begin to evaluate the promise and prospects of epistemic expressivism. (shrink)
The expressivist advances a view about how we explain the meaning of a fragment of language, such as claims about what we morally ought to do. Critics evaluate expressivism on those terms. This is a serious mistake. We don’t just use that fragment of language in isolation. We make claims about what we morally, legally, rationally, and prudentially ought to do. To account for this linguistic phenomenon, the expressivist owes us an account not just of each fragment of language, (...) but of how they weave together into a broader tapestry. I argue that expressivists face a dilemma in doing so: either they fail to explain the univocality of terms like 'ought', or they fail to explain when normative statements are and aren't inconsistent. (shrink)
Expressivist views of an area of discourse encourage us to ask not about the nature of the relevant kinds of values but rather about the nature of the relevant kind of evaluations. Their answer to the latter question typically claims some interesting disanalogy between those kinds of evaluations and descriptions of the world. It does so in hope of providing traction against naturalism-inspired ontological and epistemological worries threatening more ‘realist’ positions. This is a familiar position regarding ethical discourse; however, some (...) authors have recently defended a similar view regarding epistemic discourse. Others have argued that epistemic expressivism faces special problems, not necessarily attaching to expressivism about other areas. Their arguments differ in interesting ways, but the common strategy is an attempt to show that the very sort of meta-epistemological theorizing needed to articulate and establish epistemic expressivism involves the epistemic expressivist in some sort of internal incoherence or self-defeat. That is, they think that articulating or defending the position requires implicit commitment to the negation of one of the positions core tenets. This paper responds to those arguments on behalf of epistemic expressivism, suggesting that they each misunderstand what is crucial to epistemic expressivism. By responding to these arguments, we hope to achieve more clarity about what epistemic expressivism is and why one might want to endorse it in a meta-epistemology. (shrink)
In several recent contributions to the growing literature on slurs, Hedger draws upon Kaplan’s distinction between descriptive and expressive content to argue that slurs are expressions with purely expressive content. The distinction between descriptive and expressive content and the view that slurs are expressions with purely expressive content has been widely acknowledged in prior work, and Hedger aims to contribute to this tradition of scholarship by offering novel arguments in support of his ‘‘pure expressivist’’ account of slurs. But the account (...) that PE offers is explanatorily inadequate, resting on suspect a priori intuitions which also commit one to denying many basic facts about slurs, such as that slurs largely display systematic differential application and that slurs can be used non-offensively between in-group speakers. In this article I provide clear reasons for rejecting PE, arguing particularly against Hedger as one of PE’s most explicit and recent proponents. In showing that PE is inadequate in at least 11 ways, I argue in favor of a mixed or hybrid approach. (shrink)
I argue that in order to account for normative uncertainty, an expressivist theory of normative language and thought must accomplish two things: Firstly, it needs to find room in its framework for a gradable conative attitude, degrees of which can be interpreted as representing normative uncertainty. Secondly, it needs to defend appropriate rationality constraints pertaining to those graded attitudes. The first task – finding an appropriate graded attitude that can represent uncertainty – is not particularly problematic. I tackle the second (...) task by exploring whether we can devise expressivist versions of the standard arguments used to support rationality constraints on degrees of uncertainty, Dutch book arguments and accuracy-dominance arguments. I show that we can do so, but that the resulting arguments don’t support the same rationality constraints as the original versions of the arguments. (shrink)
This paper is a concise survey of recent expressivist theories of discourse, focusing on the ethical case. For each topic discussed recent trends are summarised and suggestions for further reading provided. Issues covered include: the nature of the moral attitude; ‘hybrid’ views according to which moral judgements express both beliefs and attitudes; the quasi-realist programmes of Simon Blackburn and Allan Gibbard; the problem of creeping minimalism; the nature of the ‘expression’ relation; the Frege-Geach problem; the problem of wishful thinking; the (...) role of moral intuitions; expressivism in aesthetics. (shrink)
Epistemic expressivists maintain, to a first approximation, that epistemic assertions express non-cognitive mental states, like endorsements, valuations, or pro-attitudes, rather than cognitive mental states such as beliefs. Proponents of epistemic expressivism include Chrisman, Gibbard, Field, Kappel, and Ridge, among others. In this paper, I argue for an alternative view to epistemic expressivism. The view I seek to advocate is inspired by hybrid expressivist theories about moral judgments, Copp Oxford studies in metaethics, 2009), Finlay, Strandberg ). According to these (...) hybrid views, moral judgments express semantically cognitive or representational states and pragmatically convey the speaker’s non-cognitive mental states via implicatures. I will argue that a particular version of this view can reasonably be extended to epistemic judgments and that it has several advantages over its expressivist and cognitivist competitors. In particular, I will try to show that there exist certain phenomena in the epistemic domain that seem to be best accounted for by expressivist theories of epistemic judgments. However, a version of hybrid expressivism that maintains that epistemic judgments convey the attributor’s non-cognitive mental states via generalized conversational implicatures is able to account for these phenomena just as well without running afoul of the main problems that have been identified for different versions of epistemic expressivism. (shrink)
This paper is a reply to Michael Lynch's "Truth, Value and Epistemic Expressivism" in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research for 2009. It argues that Lynch's argument against expressivism fails because of an ambiguity in the employed notion of an 'epistemically disengaged standpoint'.
This paper is about Truth Minimalism, Norm Expressivism, and the relation between them. In particular, it is about whether Truth Minimalism can help to solve a problem thought to plague Norm Expressivism. To start with, let me explain what I mean by 'Truth Minimalism' and 'Norm Expressivism.'.
I respond to an interesting objection to my 2014 argument against hermeneutic expressivism. I argue that even though Toppinen has identified an intriguing route for the expressivist to tread, the plausible developments of it would not fall to my argument anyways---as they do not make direct use of the parity thesis which claims that expression works the same way in the case of conative and cognitive attitudes. I close by sketching a few other problems plaguing such views.
According to traditional logical expressivism, logical operators allow speakers to explicitly endorse claims that are already implicitly endorsed in their discursive practice — endorsed in virtue of that practice’s having instituted certain logical relations. Here, I propose a different version of logical expressivism, according to which the expressive role of logical operators is explained without invoking logical relations at all, but instead in terms of the expression of discursive-practical attitudes. In defense of this alternative, I present a deflationary (...) account of the expressive role of vocabulary by which we ascribe logical relations. (shrink)
Can hybridism about moral claims be made to work? I argue it can if we accept the conventional implicature approach developed in Barker (Analysis 2000). However, this kind of hybrid expressivism is only acceptable if we can make sense of conventional implicature, the kind of meaning carried by operators like ‘even’, ‘but’, etc. Conventional implictures are a form of pragmatic presupposition, which involves an unsaid mode of delivery of content. I argue that we can make sense of conventional implicatures, (...) but doing so requires we embrace a form of pure, non-hybrid expressivism. This is a cognitivist expressivism I have developed elsewhere. We need cognitivist expressivism to make sense of how we evaluate—judge as correct or incorrect—implicature-bearing sentences. Once we embraced the possibility of this pure expressivism, we might as well be pure expressivists about normative discourse too. I show how we can do that. The motivations for a specifically hybrid theory are dialectically undercut. (shrink)
According to the expressivist argument the choice to use biotechnologies to prevent the birth of individuals with specific disabilities is an expression of disvalue for existing people with this disability. The argument has stirred a lively debate and has recently received renewed attention. This article starts with presenting the expressivist argument and its core elements. It then goes on to present and examine the counter-arguments before it addresses some aspects that have gained surprisingly little attention. The analysis demonstrates that the (...) expressivist argument has a wide range of underpinnings and that counter-arguments tend to focus on only a few of these. It also reveals an important aspect that appears to have been ignored, i.e., that people do not select foetuses based on chromosomes or other biological traits, but based on characteristics of living persons with specific disabilities. This makes it more difficult to undermine the claim that negative selection of foetuses expresses a disvaluing of persons with such disabilities. It leaves the expressivist argument with a strong bite still. (shrink)
In this essay, we extend earlier inferentialist-expressivist treatments of traditional logical, semantic, modal, and representational vocabulary (Brandom 1994, 2008, 2015; Peregrin 2014) to explanatory vocabulary. From this perspective, Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) appears to be an obvious starting point. In its simplest formulation, IBE has the form: A best explains why B, B; so A. It thereby captures one of the central inferential features of explanation. An inferentialist-expressivist treatment of “best explains” would treat it as a logical operator. (...) Analogous to the inferentialist-expressivist treatment of other logical operators, this essay aims to provide introduction and elimination rules for “best explains.” Indeed, by exhibiting a form of detachment, IBE superficially looks like an elimination rule. The sequent calculus LEA+, described in Section 5 below, makes good on this intuition. By showing how “A best explains why B” is related to the underlying, scientific inference “A, so B,” we can purchase the inference ticket of IBE for no more than the cost of science’s material inferences. (shrink)
Michael Ridge argues that metaethical expressivism can avoid its most worrisome problems by going ‘Ecumenical’. Ridge emphasizes that he aims to develop expressivism at the level of metasemantics rather than at the level of semantics. This is supposed to allow him to avoid a mentalist semantics of attitudes and instead offer an orthodox, truth-conditional or propositional semantics. However, I argue that Ridge's theory remains committed to mentalist semantics, and that his move to go metasemantic doesn't bring any clear (...) advantages to the debate between expressivism and its opponents. (shrink)
The Negation Problem states that expressivism has insufficient structure to account for the various ways in which a moral sentence can be negated. We argue that the Negation Problem does not arise for expressivist accounts of all normative language but arises only for the specific examples on which expressivists usually focus. In support of this claim, we argue for the following three theses: 1) a problem that is structurally identical to the Negation Problem arises in non-normative cases, and this (...) problem is solved once the hidden quantificational structure involved in such cases is uncovered; 2) the terms ‘required’, ‘permissible’, and ‘forbidden’ can also be analyzed in terms of hidden quantificational structure, and the Negation Problem disappears once this hidden structure is uncovered; 3) the Negation Problem does not arise for normative language that has no hidden quantificational structure. We conclude that the Negation Problem is not really a problem about expressivism at all but is rather a feature of the quantificational structure of the required, permitted, and forbidden. (shrink)
Metaethical expressivists claim that we can explain what moral words like ‘wrong’ mean without having to know what they are about – but rather by saying what it is to think that something is wrong – namely, to disapprove of it. Given the close connection between expressivists’ theory of the meaning of moral words and our attitudes of approval and disapproval, expressivists have had a hard time shaking the intuitive charge that theirs is an objectionably subjectivist or mind-dependent view of (...) morality. Expressivism, critics have charged over and again, is committed to the view that what is wrong somehow depends on or at least correlates with the attitudes that we have toward it. Arguments to this effect are sometimes subtle, and sometimes rely on fancy machinery, but they all share a common flaw. They all fail to respect the fundamental idea of expressivism: that ‘stealing is wrong’ bears exactly the same relationship to disapproval of stealing as ‘grass is green’ bears to the belief that grass is green. In this paper I rehearse the motivations for the fundamental idea of expressivism and show how the arguments of Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit , Russ Shafer-Landau , Jussi Suikkanen , and Christopher Peacocke  all fail on this same rock. In part 1 I’ll rehearse the motivation for expressivism – a motivation which directly explains why it does not have subjectivist consequences. Then in each of parts 2-5 I’ll illustrate how each of Jackson and Pettit’s, Peacocke’s, Shafer-Landau’s, and Suikkanen’s arguments work, respectively, and why each of them fails to respect the fundamental parity at the heart of expressivism. Though others have tried before me to explain why expressivism is not committed to any kind of subjectivism or mind-dependence – prominently including Blackburn , , Horgan and Timmons , and, in response to Pettit and Jackson, Dreier  and Smith and Stoljar , the explanation offered in this article is distinguished by its scope and generality.. (shrink)
The aim of the paper is to state a version of epistemic expressivism regarding knowledge, and to suggest how this expressivism about knowledge explains the value of knowledge. The paper considers how an account of the value of knowledge based on expressivism about knowledge responds to the Meno Problem, the Swamping Problem, and a variety of other questions that pertains to the value of knowledge, and the role of knowledge in our cognitive ecology.
My goal is to illuminate truth-making by way of illuminating the relation of making. My strategy is not to ask what making is, in the hope of a metaphysical theory about is nature. It's rather to look first to the language of making. The metaphor behind making refers to agency. It would be absurd to suggest that claims about making are claims about agency. It is not absurd, however, to propose that the concept of making somehow emerges from some feature (...) to do with agency. That's the contention to be explore in this paper. The way to do this is through expressivism,. Truth-making claims, and making-claims generfally, are claims in which we express mental states linked to our maipulation of concepts, like truth. In particular, they express disposition to undertake derivations using inference rules, in which introduction rules have a specific role. I then show how this theory explains our intuitions about truth's asymmetric dependence on being. (shrink)
Mark Schroeder’s expressivist program has made substantial progress in providing a compositional semantics for normative terms. This paper argues that it risks achieving this semantic progress at the cost of abandoning a key theoretical motivation for embracing expressivism in the first place. The problem can be summarized as a dilemma. Either Schroeder must allow that there are cases in which agents are in disagreement with one another, or can make valid inferences, but that these disagreements or inferences are not (...) expressible in natural language; or his version of expressivism must abandon one of the key theoretical advantages expressivist theories seemed to possess over cognitivism, the ability to provide a very straightforward explanation of the action- and attitude-guiding role of normative judgments. (shrink)
One’s account of the meaning of ethical sentences should fit – roughly, as part to whole – with one’s account of the meaning of sentences in general. When we ask, though, where one widely discussed account of the meaning of ethical sentences fits with more general accounts of meaning, the answer is frustratingly unclear. The account I have in mind is the sort of metaethical expressivism inspired by Ayer, Stevenson, and Hare, and defended and worked out in more detail (...) recently by Blackburn, Gibbard, and others. So, my first aim (§1) in this paper is to pose this question about expressivism’s commitments in the theory of meaning and to characterize the answer I think is most natural, given the place expressivist accounts attempt to occupy metaethics. This involves appeal to an ideationalist account of meaning. Unfortunately for the expressivist, however, this answer generates a problem; it’s my second aim (§2) to articulate this problem. Then, my third aim (§3) is to argue that this problem doesn’t extend to the sort of account of the meaning of ethical claims that I favor, which is like expressivism in rejecting a representationalist order of semantic explanation but unlike expressivism in basing an alternative order of semantic explanation on inferential role rather than expressive function. (shrink)
Jackson and Pettit argue that expressivism in metaethics collapses into subjectivism. A sincere utterer of a moral claim must believe that she has certain attitudes to be expressed. The truth-conditions of that belief then allegedly provide truth-conditions also for the moral utterance. Thus, the expressivist cannot deny that moral claims have subjectivist truth-conditions. Critics have argued that this argument fails as stated. I try to show that expressivism does have subjectivist repercussions in a way that avoids the problems (...) of the Jackson-Pettit argument. My argument, based on the norms for asserting moral sentences, attempts to tie expressivists to a more modest form of subjectivism than the previous arguments. (shrink)
The present paper argues that there are at least two equally plausible yet mutually incompatible answers to the question of what is of non-instrumental epistemic value. The hypothesis invoked to explain how this can be so—moderate epistemic expressivism—holds that (a) claims about epistemic value express nothing but commitments to particular goals of inquiry, and (b) there are at least two viable conceptions of those goals. It is shown that such expressivism survives recent arguments against a more radical form (...) of epistemic expressivism, as well as two further arguments, framed in terms of the two most promising attempts to ground claims about epistemic value in something other than commitments to particular conceptions of inquiry. While this does not establish that moderate epistemic expressivism is true, its ability to explain a significant but puzzling axiological datum, as well as withstand strong counterarguments, makes clear that it is a theory to be reckoned with. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that the common practice of employing moral predicates as explaining phrases can be accommodated on an expressivist account of moral practice. This account does not treat moral explanations as in any way second-rate or derivative, since it subsumes moral explanations under the general theory of program explanations (as defended by Jackson and Pettit). It follows that the phenomenon of moral explanations cannot be used to adjudicate the debate between expressivism and its rivals.
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)
There is a wide-spread belief amongst theorists of mind and language. This is that in order to understand the relation between language, thought, and reality we need a theory of meaning and content, that is, a normative, formal science of meaning, which is an extension and theoretical deepening of folk ideas about meaning. This book argues that this is false, offering an alternative idea: The form of a theory that illuminates the relation of language, thought, and reality is a theory (...) of language agency. In a nutshell, the theory of language agency is a theory of competence, without being a theory of understanding or grasping rules. It is a theory of cognitive structure and language production. This theory distils all there is to say about language, thought, and reality. It does not supplement a theory of truth-conditions or semantic norms. It is not the explanation of how a speaker, qua cognitive system causally embedded in a larger reality, is able to use a language with some pre-existing semantic characterization. There is no pre-existing semantic characterization. Nevertheless, there are facts of meaning, as good as any other facts. The dissolution of the theory of meaning is accompanied by another disappearance. That is the disappearance of metaphysical questions in a number of domains. Once we complete the theory of language agency, then just as theoretical questions about meaning disappear, certain theoretical questions about existence disappear. Having provided a theory of the language agency for talk of meaning, fact, property, relation, and proposition, there is no question left over about what meanings, facts, properties, relations, and propositions are. There is no theory to be given of their natures. This is not because they have primitive irreducible natures. Rather it is because, in a sense to be clarified in this work, they lack natures. I call this approach to language agency Global Expressivism. That is because it generalizes some of the insights brought to the study of value-language by expressivists. However, it removes these insights from the clouding affects of attempting to make expressivism a semantic theory. Expressivism about value fails as a semantic theory of value talk. However, global expressivism can succeed as a theory of all talk because it is not a semantic theory but a theory of language agency, wherein the theory of meaning is replaced by a theory of talk about meaning. (shrink)
Peter Kivy claims that expressivists in aesthetics cannot explain why we argue about art. The situation would be different in the case of morals. Moral attitudes lead to action, and since actions affect people, we have a strong incentive to change people’s moral attitudes. This can explain why we argue about morals, even if moral language is expressive of our feelings. However, judgements about what is beautiful and elegant need not significantly affect our lives. So why be concerned with other (...) people’s feelings about art? Kivy thinks the best explanation of our tendency to argue about art is that we implicitly believe in objective facts about aesthetics. This would count against expressivism. I argue two things: that there is no good reason to think that we don’t care about preferences and emotions unless they have significant practical consequences and that the truth of expressivism about aesthetic language is compatible with beliefs about objective aesthetic facts. (shrink)
According to expressivism, moral judgments are desire-like states of mind. It is often argued that this view is made implausible because it isn’t consistent with the conceivability of amoralists, i.e., agents who make moral judgments yet lack motivation. In response, expressivists can invoke the distinction between dispositional and occurrent desires. Strandberg (Am Philos Quart 49:81–91, 2012) has recently argued that this distinction does not save expressivism. Indeed, it can be used to argue that expressivism is false. In (...) this paper I argue that expressivism is a much more complex thesis than Strandberg assumes. Once these complexities are acknowledged, Strandberg’s arguments are rendered ineffective and expressivism rendered more plausible. (shrink)
Allan Gibbard maintains that his plan-based expressivism allows for a particular type of innocent mistake: I can agree that your plan to X makes sense (say, because it was based on advice from someone you trust), while nonetheless insisting that it is incorrect (e.g., because you chose a bad advisor). However, Steve Daskal has recently argued that there are significant limitations in Gibbard’s account of how we can be mistaken about the normative judgments we make. This essay refines Gibbard’s (...) account in order to show--contra Daskal--that expressivists can deliver a surprisingly robust form of normative objectivity. (shrink)
James Dreier (Philos Perspect 18: 23-44, 2004) states what he calls the "Problem of Creeping Minimalism": that metaethical Expressivists can accept a series of claims about meaning, under which all of the sentences that Realists can accept are consistent with Expressivism. This would allow Expressivists to accept all of the Realist's sentences, and as Dreier points out, make it difficult to say what the difference between the two views is. That Expressivists can accept these claims about meaning has been (...) suggested by Simon Blackburn on behalf of his "quasirealist". I argue against the assumption that there is a way to interpret the Realist's sentences in a way that renders them consistent with Expressivism. (shrink)
Huw Price’s neo-pragmatist programme of global expressivism (see Huw Price "Naturalism Without Mirrors" (2011) and "Expressivism, Pragmatism and Representationalism" (2013)) faces a challenge — it is susceptible to the charge that the proposed combination of expressivism with a deflationary account of semantics leads to inconsistency. Expressivists about a particular discourse deny that it is representational. Global expressivists face the threat of inconsistency due to their attempts to generalise this denial to include the discourse of semantics. In this (...) paper, I explicate two meta-semantic presuppositions of this charge. I argue that such an explication enables us to construct a consistent account of global expressivism. The key point is that global expressivists should adopt two truth predicates and treat meta-semantics as non-substantial. I argue that this framework provides us with a better grasp of Price’s response to the problem of inconsistency and enables global expressivists to accommodate the correspondence intuition. (shrink)
The basic idea of logical expressivism in the Brandomian tradition is that logic makes inferential relations explicit and thereby accessible to critical discussion. But expressivists have not given a convincing explanation of what the point of logical theories is. Peregrin provides a starting point by observing a distinction between making explicit and explication in Carnap’s sense of replacing something unclear and vague by something clear and exact. Whereas logical locutions make inferential relations explicit within a language, logical theories use (...) formal languages to explicate inferential roles and meanings of ordinary-language expressions. But Peregrin also holds that the whole point of logical theories is to provide perspicuous models of inferential structures in ordinary language practice. This turns explication into a mere continuation of making explicit by other means, and it leads to a one-sided conception of logic which has no room for evaluating inferential practice in light of logical theories. As a more convincing alternative, I suggest that expressivists rely on the method of reflective equilibrium. This approach is closely related to Carnapian explication, but it has the potential of correcting informal inferential practice without dubious ambitions to replace ordinary languages by logical formalisms. (shrink)
Consider the claim that openmindedness is an epistemic virtue, the claim that true belief is epistemically valuable, and the claim that one epistemically ought to cleave to one’s evidence. These are examples of what I’ll call “ epistemic discourse.” In this paper I’ll propose and defend a view called “convention-relativism about epistemic discourse.” In particular, I’ll argue that convention-relativismis superior to its main rival, expressivism about epistemic discourse. Expressivism and conventionalism both jibe with anti-realism about epistemic normativity, which (...) is motivated by appeal to philosophical naturalism. Convention-relativism says that epistemic discourse describes how things stands relative to a conventional set of “ epistemic ” values; such discourse is akin to normative discourse relative to the conventional rules of a club. I defend conventionalism by appeal to a “reverse open question argument,” which says, pace expressivism, that epistemic discourse leaves the relevant normative questions open. (shrink)
Can we believe that there are non-existent entities without commitment to the Meinongian metaphysics? This paper argues we can. What leads us from quantification over non-existent beings to Meinongianism is a general metaphysical assumption about reality at large, and not merely quantification over the non-existent. Broadly speaking, the assumption is that every being we talk about must have a real definition. It’s this assumption that drives us to enquire into the nature of beings like Pegasus, and what our relationship as (...) thinkers is to them. However, I argue this assumption only holds if you think your language, and in particular that aspect of it to do with referring to entities works in a specific way. This is the specific way generally assumed by the discipline called ‘Semantics’. I sketch out an alternative, call it global expressivism, in which talk of referring is given an expressivist, speech-act theoretic treatment. If we accept that our talk of the non-existent works as the global expressivist tells us it does, then the question of the metaphysical nature of non-existent entities is utterly void. You might say that Pegasus is empty of any metaphysical nature. Since the non-existent lacks any metaphysical nature, the metaphysics of the non-existent, Meinongianism, as a form of inquiry, lacks a subject matter, despite the fact that we talk happily, and indeed unavoidably, of the non-existent. (shrink)
Ethical vagueness has garnered little attention. This is rather surprising since many philosophers have remarked that the science of ethics lacks the precision that other fields of inquiry have. Of the few philosophers who have discussed ethical vagueness the majority have focused on the implications of vagueness for moral realism. Because the relevance of ethical vagueness for other metaethical positions has been underexplored, my aim in this paper is to investigate the ramifications of ethical vagueness for expressivism. Ultimately, I (...) shall argue that expressivism does not have the resources to adequately account for ethical vagueness, while cognitivism does. This demonstrates an advantage that cognitivism holds over expressivism. (shrink)
A central feature of ordinary moral thought is that moral judgment is mind-independent in the following sense: judging something to be morally wrong does not thereby make it morally wrong. To deny this would be to accept a form of subjectivism. Neil Sinclair (2008) makes a novel attempt to show how expressivism is simultaneously committed to (1) an understanding of moral judgments as expressions of attitudes and (2) the rejection of subjectivism. In this paper, I discuss Sinclair’s defense of (...) anti-subjectivist moral mind-independence on behalf of the expressivist, and I argue that the account does not fully succeed. An examination of why it does not is instructive, and it reveals a fundamental dilemma for the expressivist. I offer a suggestion for how the expressivist might respond to the dilemma and so uphold Sinclair’s defense. (shrink)
Over the years, metaethicists have witnessed the rise of a cottage industry devoted to claiming that expressivist analyses cannot capture some allegedly important feature of moral language. In this paper, I show how Simon Blackburn's pragmatist method enables him to respond decisively to many of these objections. In doing so, I hope to call into question some prevailing assumptions about the linguistic phenomena that a metaethical theory should be expected to capture.
There has been a great deal of discussion in the recent philosophical literature of the relationship between the minimalist theory of truth and the expressivist metaethical theory. One group of philosophers contends that minimalism and expressivism are compatible, the other group contends that such theories are incompatible. Following Simon Blackburn (manuscript), I will call the former position ‘compatibilism’ and the latter position ‘incompatiblism.’ Even those compatibilist philosophers who hold that there is no conflict or tension between these two theories—minimalism (...) and expressivism—typically think that some revision of minimalism is required to accommodate expressivism. The claim that there is such an incompatibility, I will argue, is based on a misunderstanding of the historical roots of expressivism, the motivations behind the expressivist theory, and the essential commitments of expressivism. I will present an account of the expressivist theory that is clearly consistent with minimalism. (shrink)
In this paper I will be concerned with the question as to whether expressivist theories of meaning can coherently be combined with deflationist theories of truth. After outlining what I take expressivism to be and what I take deflationism about truth to be, I’ll explain why I don’t take the general version of this question to be very hard, and why the answer is ‘yes’. Having settled that, I’ll move on to what I take to be a more pressing (...) and interesting version of the question, arising from a prima facie tension between deflationism about truth and the motivations underlying expressivism for what I take to be two of its most promising applications: to indicative conditionals and epistemic modals. Here I’ll argue that the challenge is substantive, but that there is no conceptual obstacle to its being met, provided that one’s expressivism takes the right form. (shrink)