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)
Our main focus in this paper is Herman Cappelen’s claim, defended in Fixing Language, that reference is radically inscrutable. We argue that Cappelen’s inscrutability thesis should be rejected. We also highlight how rejecting inscrutability undermines Cappelen’s most radical conclusions about conceptual engineering. In addition, we raise a worry about his positive account of topic continuity through inquiry and debate.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
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 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)
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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)
ABSTRACTWhat does it take for lawyers and others to think or talk about the same legal topic—e.g., defamation, culpability? We argue that people are able to think or talk about the same topic not when they possess a matching substantive understanding of the topic, as traditional metasemantics says, but instead when their thoughts or utterances are related to each other in certain ways. And what determines the content of thoughts and utterances is what would best serve the core purposes of (...) the representational practice within which the thought or utterance is located. In thus favoring a “relational model” in metasemantics, we share Ronald Dworkin's goal of explaining fundamental legal disagreements, and also his reliance on constructive interpretation. But what we delineate is a far more general and explanatorily resourceful metasemantics than what Dworkin articulated, which also bypasses some controversial implications for the nature of law that Dworkin alleged. (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.
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)