What does it take to count as competent with the meaning of a thin evaluative predicate like 'is the right thing to do'? According to minimalists like Allan Gibbard and Ralph Wedgwood, competent speakers must simply use the predicate to express their own motivational states. According to analytic descriptivists like Frank Jackson, Philip Pettit and Christopher Peacocke, competent speakers must grasp a particular criterion for identifying the property picked out by the term. Both approaches face serious difficulties. We suggest that (...) these difficulties derive from a shared background assumption that competence conditions must be explained in terms of a determinate conceptual role. We propose a new way of characterizing competence with evaluative terms: what's required for competence is participation in a shared epistemic practice with a term. Our approach, we argue, better explains the nature of evaluative inquiry and the extent of disagreement about evaluative questions. (shrink)
This paper proposes a new relational account of concepts and shows how it is particularly well suited to characterizing normative concepts. The key advantage of our ‘connectedness’ model is that it explains how subjects can share the same normative concepts despite radical divergences in the descriptive or motivational commitments they associate with them. The connectedness model builds social and historical facts into the foundations of concept identity. This aspect of the model, we suggest, reshapes normative epistemology and provides new resources (...) for a vindication of realism in ethics. (shrink)
This paper articulates two constraints on an acceptable account of meaning: (i) accessibility: sameness of meaning affords an immediate appearance of de jure co-reference, (ii) flexibility: sameness of meaning tolerates open-ended variation in speakers' substantive understanding of the reference. Traditional accounts of meaning have trouble simultaneously satisfying both constraints. I suggest that relationally individuated meanings provide a promising way of avoiding this tension. On relational accounts, we bootstrap our way to de jure co-reference: the subjective appearance of de jure co-reference (...) helps make it the case that two token representations really do co-refer. (shrink)
Anti-individualists claim that concepts are individuated with an eye to purely external facts about a subject's environment about which she may be ignorant or mistaken. This paper offers a novel reason for thinking that anti-individualistic concepts are an ineliminable part of commonsense psychology. Our commitment to anti-individualism, I argue, is ultimately grounded in a rational epistemic agent's commitment to refining her own representational practices in the light of new and surprising information about her environment. Since anti-individualism is an implicit part (...) of responsible epistemic practices, we cannot abandon it without compromising our own epistemic agency. The story I tell about the regulation of one's own representational practices yields a new account of the identity conditions for anti-individualistic concepts. (shrink)
It's generally agreed that, for a certain a class of cases, a rational subject cannot be wrong in treating two elements of thought as co-referential. Even anti-individualists like Tyler Burge agree that empirical error is impossible in such cases. I argue that this immunity to empirical error is illusory and sketch a new anti-individualist approach to concepts that doesn't require such immunity.
Frank Jackson often writes as if his descriptivist account of public language meanings were just plain common sense. How else are we to explain how different speakers manage to communicate using a public language? And how else can we explain how individuals arrive at confident judgments about the reference of their words in hypothetical scenarios? Our aim in this paper is to show just how controversial the psychological assumptions behind in Jackson’s semantic theory really are. First, we explain how Jackson’s (...) theory goes well beyond the commonsense platitudes he cites in its defence. Second, we sketch an alternative explanation of those platitudes, the jazz model of meaning, which we argue is more psychologically realistic. We conclude that the psychological picture presupposed by Jackson’s semantic theory stands in need of a much more substantial defence than he has so far offered. (shrink)
From Plato down to the logical empiricists, philosophers assumed that all empirical knowledge must rest on apriori semantic foundations. According to this philosophical tradition, empirical knowledge is possible only if the subject has an implicit apriori understanding of what it is her words and concepts refer to. You can.
In Constructing the World, Chalmers seeks to articulate and defend an important epistemic accessibility thesis, the Scrutability of Truth, which is crucial to Chalmers’ rationalist approach to meaning and modality. Chapters 3 and 4 of the book are devoted to persuading us that the move from weaker to stronger forms of Scrutability is intuitively plausible. In these comments, I want to question this move. The plausibility of strong forms of Scrutability hinges on controversial views about epistemic norms for answering ‘what (...) is x?’ questions that semantic externalists have good reason to reject. (shrink)
It would be nice if good old a priori conceptual analysis were possible. For many years conceptual analysis was out of fashion, in large part because of the excessive ambitions of verificationist theories of meaning._ _However, those days are over._ _A priori conceptual analysis is once again part of the philosophical mainstream._ _This renewed popularity, moreover, is well-founded. Modern philosophical analysts have exploited developments in philosophical semantics to formulate analyses which avoid the counterintuitive consequences of verificationism, while vindicating our ability (...) to know a priori precisely what it is our words and thoughts represent._ _Despite its apparent promise, however, I. (shrink)
This paper examines whether realists can explain co-reference without appealing to subjects’ ideal convergence in judgment. This question is particularly pressing in the normative domain, since deep disagreement about the applicability of normative predicates suggests that different speakers may not pick out the same property when they use normative terms. Normative realists, we believe, have not been sufficiently aware of the difficulties involved in providing a theory of reference-determination. Our aim in this paper is to clarify the nature of this (...) reference-fixing task and the challenges that arise for a non-convergentist normative realist. Our focal point will be Richard Boyd’s externalist account, which has been a model for non-convergentist theories of reference in metaethics. A close examination of Boyd’s account of reference and the ways it could be developed or supplemented, we’ll argue, suggests that explaining co-reference without convergence in the normative domain is a more challenging problem than many realists have supposed. (shrink)
Two-dimensional (2D) semantics is a formal framework that is used to characterize the meaning of certain linguistic expressions and the entailment relations among sentences containing them. 2D semantics has also been applied to thought contents. In contrast with standard possible worlds semantics, 2D semantics assigns extensions and truth-values to expressions relative to two possible world parameters, rather than just one. So a 2D semantic framework provides finer-grained semantic values than those available within standard possible world semantics, while using the same (...) basic model-theoretic resources. The 2D framework itself is just a formal tool. To develop a semantic theory for someone’s language, a proponent of 2D semantics must do three things: (i) explain what exactly the two possible world parameters represent, (ii) explain the rules for assigning 2D semantic values to a person’s words and sentences, and (iii) explain how 2D semantic values help in understanding the meanings of the person’s words and sentences. (shrink)
This paper surveys recent work on moral expertise. Much of that work defends an asymmetry thesis according to which the cognitive deference to expertise that characterizes other areas of inquiry is out of place in morality. There are two reasons why you might think asymmetry holds. The problem might lie in the existence of expertise or in deferring to it. We argue that both types of arguments for asymmetry fail. They appear to be stronger than they are because of their (...) focus on moral expertise regarding all-in judgments about rightness. We reject this emphasis on all-in judgment in favor of an account of moral expertise as typically multi-stranded and domain limited. This account of moral expertise is better able to address the problem of how to identify those who have expertise. It also offers a more nuanced picture of the contrast between accepting a moral claim on one’s own and accepting it on testimony. (shrink)
In this paper, we argue that ordinary judgments about core normative topics purport to attribute stable, objective properties and relations. Our strategy is first to analyze the structures and practices characteristic of paradigmatically representational concepts such as concepts of objects and natural kinds. We identify three broad features that ground the representational purport of these concepts. We then argue that core normative concepts exhibit these same features.
Frank Jackson and David Chalmers have suggested that the diagonal intensions defined by their two-dimensional framework can play the two key roles of Fregean senses: they provide a priori accessible extension conditions for a representation and they provide the identity conditions for meanings and thought contents. In this paper, I clarify the nature of the psychological abilities that are needed to underwrite the first role. I then argue that these psychological abilities are not sufficiently stable or cognitively salient to individuate (...) meanings or thought contents. (shrink)
This paper articulates what it would take to defend representationalism in the case of emotions – i.e. the claim that emotions attribute evaluative properties to target objects or events. We argue that representationalism faces a significant explanatory challenge that has not yet been adequately recognized. Proponents must establish that a representation relation linking emotions and value is explanatorily necessary. We use the case of perception to bring out the difficulties in meeting this explanatory challenge.
The paper clarifies what is at stake in the theory/antitheory debate in ethics and articulates the distinctive core of the method of reflective equilibrium which distinguishes it from a generic coherence constraint. I call this distinctive core 'maieutic reflection'. The paper then argues that if she accepts constructivist views in metaethics, a proponent of the method of reflective equilibrium will be committed to the existence of a moral theory.
Unlike traditional sentimentalists, sophisticated sentimentalists don’t think that the main linguistic function of evaluative terms is simply to express emotional responses. Instead, they contend that to predicate an evaluative term to an object is to judge that a particular emotion is justified toward that object. I will raise a fundamental difficulty for the sophisticated sentimentalists’ attempt to provide a credible account of the meaning of our most important evaluative terms. A more careful examination of the relations between the affective and (...) the reflective elements characteristic of our evaluative thinking will suggest that the emotions play a less central role in an account of the meaning of evaluative terms than sentimentalists have assumed. (shrink)
This paper is a critique of Ralph Wedgwood's recent attempt to use the framework of conceptual role semantics in metaethics. Wedgwood's central idea is that the action-guiding role of moral terms suffices to determine genuine properties as their semantic values. We argue that Wedgwood cannot get so much for so little. We explore two interpretations of Wedgwood's account of what it takes to be competent with a thin moral term. On the first interpretation, the account does not warrant the assignment (...) of a normative property as the semantic value of the target expression. On the second interpretation, the account presupposes that the subject has a prior understanding of normative notions. (shrink)
It's widely accepted that social facts about an individual's linguistic community can affect both the reference of her words and the concepts those words express. Theorists sympathetic to the internalist tradition have sought to accommodate these social dependence phenomena without altering their core theoretical commitments by positing deferential reference-fixing criteria. In this paper, we sketch a different explanation of social dependence phenomena, according to which all concepts are individuated in part by causal-historical relations linking token elements of thought.
In Epistemic Two-Dimensional Semantics, David Chalmers seeks to develop a version of 2-D semantics which can vindicate the rationalist claim that there are constitutive connections between meaning, possibility and a priority. Chalmers lays out different ways of filling in his preferred epistemic approach to 2-D semantics so as to avoid controversial philosophical assumptions. In these comments, however, I argue that there are some distinctively rationalist commitments in Chalmers's epistemic approach to 2-D semantics. I start by explaining why Chalmers's approach requires (...) a canonical language that affords subjects accurate a priori access to the space of possibility. I then argue that traditional worries about rationalism will simply re-emerge as worries about whether there can be a canonical vocabulary and how we could come to recognize one if there were. The moral is that Chalmers's 2-D semantic framework builds in substantive metaphysical and epistemological commitments which stand in need of further defense. (shrink)
In recent years, two‐dimensional semantics has been used to develop a broadly descriptivist approach to meaning that seeks to accommodate externalists’ counterexamples to traditional descriptivism. The 2D possible worlds framework can be used to capture a speaker’s implicit dispositions to identify the reference of her words on the basis of empirical information about her actual environment. Proponents of 2D semantics argue that this aspect of linguistic understanding plays the core theoretical role of meanings: 2D semantics allows us to specify a (...) reference‐fixing criterion implicit mastery of which constitutes semantic competence a particular meaning. (shrink)
This paper sketches a right-maker account of normative practical reasons along functionalist lines. The approach is contrasted with other similar accounts, in particular John Broome's analysis of reasons as explanations of oughts.
We take self-governance or autonomy to be a central feature of human agency: we believe that our actions normally occur under our guidance and at our command. A common criticism of the standard theory of action is that it leaves the agent out of his actions and thus mischaracterizes our autonomy. According to proponents of the endorsement model of autonomy, such as Harry Frankfurt and David Velleman, the standard theory simply needs to be supplemented with the agent's actual endorsement of (...) his actions in order to make room for our autonomy. I argue that their proposal fails and that a more substantive enrichment of the standard theory is called for. (shrink)
The Generalized Integration Challenge is the task of providing, for a given domain of discourse, a simultaneously acceptable metaphysics, epistemology and metasemantics and showing them to be so. In this paper, we focus on a metaethical position for which seems particularly acute: the brand of normative realism which takes normative properties to be mind-independent and causally inert. The problem is that these metaphysical commitments seem to make normative knowledge impossible. We suggest that bringing metasemantics into play can help to resolve (...) this puzzle. We propose an independently plausible metasemantic constraint on reference determination and show how it can provide a plausible response to for this brand of normative realism. (shrink)
Philip Pettit, Michael Smith, and Tyler Burge have suggested that the similarities between theoretical and practical reasoning can bolster the case for judgment internalism – i.e. the claim that normative judgments are necessarily connected to motivation. In this paper, I first flesh out the rationale for this new approach to internalism. I then argue that even if there are reasons for thinking that internalism holds in the theoretical domain, these reasons don’t generalize to the practical domain.
We defend the claim that there can be testimonial transfer of reasons against Steinig’s recent objections. In addition, we argue that the literature on testimony about moral reasons misunderstands what is at stake in the possibility of second-hand orientation towards moral reasons. A moral community faces two different but related tasks: one theoretical and one practical. In between, simultaneously theoretical and practical, lies the activity of co-deliberation. Virtuous participation in co-deliberation can require limited moral deference. Refusal to recognize this, combined (...) with excess self-trust, can derail co-deliberation. (shrink)
This paper is a response to Niklas Möller’s (Philosophical Studies, 2013) recent criticism of our relational (Jazz) model of meaning of thin evaluative terms. Möller’s criticism rests on a confusion about the role of coordinating intentions in Jazz. This paper clarifies what’s distinctive and controversial about the Jazz proposal and explains why Jazz, unlike traditional accounts of meaning, is not committed to analycities.
Cet article examine de façon critique certaines des récentes tentatives de défendre une position relativiste en métaéthique. Les adeptes du relativisme ont tenté avec beaucoup d’ingéniosité de montrer comment leur position peut soit accepter soit invalider l’intuition selon laquelle nous parlons tous de la même chose quand nous utilisons le vocabulaire moral. Mon argument cherche à établir qu’ils ont ce faisant négligé l’une des fonctions centrales de notre discours moral : créer un forum favorisant la coopération épistémique dans le but (...) de résoudre nos questions morales. (shrink)
In an interesting recent exchange, Antti Kauppinen (2007) disagrees with Thomas Nadelhoffer and Eddy Nahmias (2007) over the prospects of experimental methods in philosophy. Kauppinen's critique of experimental philosophy is premised on an endorsement of a priori conceptual analysis. This premise has shaped the trajectory of their debate. In this note, I consider what foes of conceptual analysis will have to say about their exchange.