The author contends that moral utterances and imperatives have different logical features. He discusses r m hare's "language of morals" in terms of his distinction between plain imperatives and deontic utterances. (staff).
I resolve the major challenge to an Expressivist theory of the meaning of normative discourse: the Frege–Geach Problem. Drawing on considerations from the semantics of directive language (e.g., imperatives), I argue that, although certain forms of Expressivism (like Gibbard’s) do run into at least one version of the Problem, it is reasonably clear that there is a version of Expressivism that does not.
This is an opinionated overview of the Frege-Geachproblem, in both its historical and contemporary guises. Covers Higher-order Attitude approaches, Tree-tying, Gibbard-style solutions, and Schroeder's recent A-type expressivist solution.
Expressivists, such as Blackburn, analyse sentences such as 'S thinks that it ought to be the case that p' as S hoorays that p'. A problem is that the former sentence can be negated in three different ways, but the latter in only two. The distinction between refusing to accept a moral judgement and accepting its negation therefore cannot be accounted for. This is shown to undermine Blackburn's solution to the Frege-Geachproblem.
Despite its many advantages as a metaethical theory, moral expressivism faces difficulties as a semantic theory of the meaning of moral claims, an issue underscored by the notorious Frege-Geachproblem. I consider a distinct metaethical view, inferentialism, which like expressivism rejects a representational account of meaning, but unlike expressivism explains meaning in terms of inferential role instead of expressive function. Drawing on Michael Williams’ recent work on inferential theories of meaning, I argue that an appropriate understanding of the (...) pragmatic role of moral discourse—the facilitation of coordinated social behavior—suggests the kind of inferences we should expect terms with this function to license. I offer a sketch of the inferential roles the moral ‘ought’ plays, and argue that if we accept that the relevant inferential roles are meaning-constitutive, we will be in a position to solve the Frege-Geachproblem. Such an inferentialist solution has advantages over those forwarded by expressivists such as Blackburn and Gibbard. First, it offers a more straightforward explanation of the meaning of moral terms. It also gives simple answers to at least two semantic worries that have vexed contemporary expressivists—the “problem of permissions” and the commitment to “mentalism”, both of which I argue are problems that don’t get traction with an inferentialist approach. I conclude by considering ways in which this approach can be expanded into a more robust semantic account. (shrink)
The problem of the unity of the proposition asks what binds together the constituents of a proposition into a fully formed proposition that provides truth conditions for the assertoric sentence that expresses it, rather than merely a set of objects. Hanks’ solution is to reject the traditional distinction between content and force. If his theory is successful, then there is a plausible extension of it that readily solves the Frege–Geach problem for normative propositions. Unfortunately Hanks’ theory isn’t successful, (...) but it does point to significant connections between expressivism, unity, and embedding. (shrink)
In the 1960s, Peter Geach and John Searle independently posed an important objection to the wide class of 'noncognitivist' metaethical views that had at that time been dominant and widely defended for a quarter of a century. The problems raised by that objection have come to be known in the literature as the Frege-GeachProblem, because of Geach's attribution of the objection to Frege's distinction between content and assertoric force, and the problem has since occupied a great (...) deal of the attention both of defenders of broadly noncognitivist views, and of their critics. In this article I explain Geach and Searle's historical objections, and put the subsequent discussion into dialectical context, paying some attention to the developments along the way and how they have enhanced our overall understanding of the problem. The article covers a lot of territory, so we will only be able to see the highlights, along the way. For further reading, see the Works Cited. (shrink)
The Frege‐Geach problem is probably the most serious worry for the prospects of any kind of metaethical expressivism. In a recent article, Ridge suggests that a new version of expressivism, a view he calls ecumenical expressivism, can avoid the Frege‐Geach problem.1 In contrast to pure expressivism, ecumenical expressivism is the view that moral utterances function to express not only desire‐like states of mind but also beliefs with propositional content. Whereas pure expressivists’ solutions to the Frege‐Geach problem usually (...) have rested on some kind of “logic of attitudes,” Ridge argues that it is the expressed belief in the ecumenical machinery that holds the key. Although Ridge’s ecumenical expressivism is promising, this essay argues that his solution is flawed. However, this does not mean that every form of ecumenical expressivism is a failure. Ridge briefly contrasts his view with the kind of view Hare advanced but argues that Hare cannot make use of the ecumenical machinery.2 I argue that this is incorrect. Not only is an ecumenical reading of Hare very plausible and something that establishes him as an important forerunner of today’s ecumenical trend in metaethics, but, more important, it offers guidance where Ridge goes wrong. It solves the Frege‐Geach problem in a way that meets the criticism of more standard solutions head‐on, and it seems to be able to handle the most pressing problems for ecumenical theories. The ecumenical theory that emerges is therefore powerful enough to establish itself as one of the most (if not the most) plausible form of ecumenism on the market. The first part of this article is largely concerned with advancing an ecumenical reading of Hare’s The Language of Morals and the kind of solution it offers in response to the Frege‐Geach problem. Some of the problems such a reading encounters will be addressed as we outline the theory. The most serious worries, however, are addressed in the final part of the essay. (shrink)
Mark Eli Kalderon has argued for a fictionalist variant of non-cognitivism. On his view, what the Frege–Geach problem shows is that standard non-cognitivism proceeds uncritically from claims about use to claims about meaning; if non-cognitivism's claims were solely about use it would be on safe ground as far as the Frege–Geach problem is concerned. I argue that Kalderon's diagnosis is mistaken: the problem concerns the non-cognitivist's account of the use of moral sentences too.
Every expressivist theory of moral language requires a solution to the Frege-Geachproblem, i.e., the problem of explaining how moral sentences retain their meaning in unasserted contexts. An essential part of Blackburn’s ‘quasi-realist project’, i.e., the project of showing how we can earn the right to treat moral sentences as if they have ordinary truth-conditions, is to provide a sophisticated solution. I show, however, that simple negated contexts provide a fundamental difficulty, since accepting the negation of a (...) sentence is easily confused with merely refusing to accept that sentence. I argue that Blackburn’s model-set semantics for his ‘Hooray!’ and ‘Boo!’ operators requires logical apparatus to which he is not entitled. I consider various modifications, but show that they do not succeed. (shrink)
CHANGE SLIDE Go through outline of talk CHANGE SLIDE It is my sincerest hope that if there is one thing that people take away from Moral Fictionalism, it is the recognition that standard noncognitivism involves a syndrome of three, logically distinct claims. Standard noncognitivists claim that moral judgment is not belief or any other cognitive attitude but is, rather, a noncognitive attitude more akin to desire; that this noncognitive attitude is expressed by our public moral utterances; and, hence, that our (...) public moral utterances lack a distinctively moral subject matter and so are not answerable to the moral facts. Notice, however, that these are logically distinct claimsthe rst is a psychological claim, the second and third, positive and negative semantic claims, respectively. We can regiment the familiar technical vocabulary as follow: CHANGE.. (shrink)
According to judgment internalism, there is a conceptual connection between moral judgment and motivation. This paper offers an argument against that kind of internalism that does not involve counterexamples of the amoralist sort. Instead, it is argued that these forms of judgment internalism fall prey to a Frege-Geach type argument.
......Mathematics coincides with Frege's theory of Sinn and Bedeutung...argued that in cases where Frege would say we recognize over...successful.) With this sort of elucidation, then, I indeed proposed to...use of . . .', or between Frege's 'einen Sinn ausdruckeri.....
It is fortunate for my purposes that English has the two words ‘almighty’ and ‘omnipotent’, and that apart from any stipulation by me the words have rather different associations and suggestions. ‘Almighty’ is the familiar word that comes in the creeds of the Church; ‘omnipotent’ is at home rather in formal theological discussions and controversies, e.g. about miracles and about the problem of evil. ‘Almighty’ derives by way of Latin ‘omnipotens’ from the Greek word ‘ pantokratōr ’; and both (...) this Greek word, like the more classical ‘ pankratēs ’, and ‘almighty’ itself suggest God's having power over all things. On the other hand the English word ‘omnipotent’ would ordinarily be taken to imply ability to do everything; the Latin word ‘omnipotens’ also predominantly has this meaning in Scholastic writers, even though in origin it is a Latinization of ‘ pantocratōr ’. So there already is a tendency to distinguish the two words; and in this paper I shall make the distinction a strict one. I shall use the word ‘almighty’ to express God's power over all things, and I shall take ‘omnipotence’ to mean ability to do everything. (shrink)
A difficulty is exposed in Allan Gibbard's solution to the embedding/Frege-Geachproblem, namely that the difference between refusing to accept a normative judgement and accepting its negation is ignored. This is shown to undermine the whole solution.
According to John Mackie, moral talk is representational (the realists go that bit right) but its metaphysical presuppositions are wildly implausible (the non-cognitivists got that bit right). This is the basis of Mackie’s now famous error theory: that moral judgments are cognitively meaningful but systematically false. Of course, Mackie went on to recommend various substantive moral judgments, and, in the light of his error theory, that has seemed odd to a lot of folk. Richard Joyce has argued that Mackie’s approach (...) can be vindicated by a fictionalist account of moral discourse. And Mark Kalderon has argued that moral fictionalism is attractive quite independently of Mackie’s error-theory. Kalderon argues that the Frege–Geach problem shows that we need moral propositions, but that a fictionalist can and should embrace propositional content together with a non-cognitivist account of acceptance of a moral proposition. Indeed, it is clear that any fictionalist is going to have to postulate more than one kind of acceptance attitude. We argue that this double-approach to acceptance generates a new problem – a descendent of Frege–Geach – which we call the acceptance–transfer problem. Although we develop the problem in the context of Kalderon’s version of non-cognitivist fictionalism, we show that it is not the non-cognitivist aspect of Kalderon’s account that generates the problem. A closely related problem surfaces for the more typical variants of fictionalism according to which accepting a moral proposition is believing some closely related non-moral proposition. Fictionalists of both stripes thus have an attitude problem. (shrink)
Expressive-Assertivism, a metaethical theory championed by Daniel Boisvert, is sometimes considered to be a particularly promising form of hybrid expressivism. One of the main virtues of Expressive-Assertivism is that it seems to offer a simple solution to the Frege-Geachproblem. I argue, in contrast, that Expressive-Assertivism faces much the same challenges as pure expressivism.
This thesis is about the viability of meta-normative expressivism. On what I take to be the dominant conception of the view, it subscribes to two theses. First, that the meaning of sentences is to be explained in terms of the mental states these sentences conventionally express. Second, that there is a fundamental difference in the roles of the states expressed by normative sentences and the states expressed by descriptive sentences: descriptive sentences, according to expressivists, express mental states which are representational (...) and non-motivational, while normative sentences express non-representational and motivational states. Expressivism has attracted many naturalistically inclined philosophers for its ability to explain many of the distinctive features of normative discourse and thought, without adding entities to our ontology that are metaphysically and epistemologically problematic. In this way, expressivism promises to preserve the legitimacy of our ordinary normative practice within a naturalistic world-view, without giving up on any of its distinctive features. Despite it’s benefits, expressivism also faces significant problems. While one of these problems, the Frege-GeachProblem, has attracted a lot of attention, there are several other problems that have not been sufficiently addressed by. But, given that the reasonable assumption that the plausibility of philosophical theories needs to be assessed holistically, it seems that one should pay attention to these problems to be able to assess expressivism’s overall plausibility. In this thesis I explain how expressivists can solve two of these problems. The first problem the dissertation is concerned with is the normative attitude problem. This is a dilemma based on the challenge that expressivists need to give an account of the nature of the attitude that normative thinking consists in. The dilemma is then that expressivists could either do this by holding that normative thinking consists in sui generis attitudes, which is uninformative and potentially in conflict with naturalism, or by holding that normative thinking reduces to attitudes fully describable in non-normative terms, which is in conflict with our intuitions about normative thinking. I argue that this dilemma is structurally identical to a dilemma which meta-normative representationalism faces and that expressivists can use the same theoretical resources to address the normative attitude problem meta-normative representationalists have used to address their version of the dilemma. I also argue that these resources will not only help more traditional versions of expressivism, according to which normative thinking reduces to familiar kinds of attitudes fully describable in non-normative terms, but opens up the possibility of an expressivist view according to which normative thinking consists in sui generis attitudes. The second problem I consider is a challenge to a particular expressivist project: quasi-realism. Part of this project is to show that expressivism is compatible with a web of closely connected assumptions, namely, that normative thought and discourse are truth-apt and normative judgements are beliefs. While quasi-realists have made some progress in this direction, there is one relevant phenomenon that has so far been neglected, namely, those uses of that-clauses that are associated with propositional content. This is a problematic neglect, because that-clauses figure prominently in platitudes characterizing our ordinary notions of “truth-aptitude” and “belief ”, and so expressivists need to provide a plausible account of these uses of that-clauses which fits with their allowing that normative thought and discourse are truth-apt and normative judgements are beliefs. I address this challenge as follows: I first remove any worries that one might have that a plausible account of that-clauses that helps the quasi-realist could be given, by introducing the distinction between semantics and meta-semantics and locating expressivism at the level of metasemantics. I then develop a deflationist view of that-clauses which suits the quasi-realist’s purposes. I start by giving such a view for the use of that-clauses in meaning-attributions by expanding on the work of Wilfried Sellars. I then go on to explain how the account can be generalized to the use of that-clauses in belief-attributions and propositional attitude ascriptions more generally, in a way that allows expressivists to say that normative judgements are beliefs. (shrink)
L’article cherche à fournir une défense de la théorie discursive de la morale de Habermas contre une critique importante formulée récemment par J. G. Finlayson, lequel soutient que Habermas rejetterait ce qu’il appelle le « cognitivisme métaéthique » et qu’un tel rejet le confronterait au problème de Frege-Geach. L’article démontre en détail que cette critique est non fondée. Il montre de plus que la seule forme de cognitivisme rejetée par Habermas est le descriptivisme moral en ce que cette approche (...) serait contre-intuitive eu égard à l’usage normal de nos expressions morales. L’article cherche finalement à répondre à certaines objections majeures que les philosophes descriptivistes pourraient soulever à l’endroit de la théorie habermassienne de la morale, en particulier contre sa thèse de l’analogie entre vérité propositionnelle et justesse normative.The paper aims at providing a defence of Habermas’s discourse theory of morality against a significant criticism recently levelled by J. G. Finlayson, who maintains that Habermas would reject what he calls “metaethical cognitivism” and that such a rejection would cause him to face what has been known as the Frege-Geachproblem. The paper demonstrates in detail that this claim is unfounded. It further shows that the only form of cognitivism rejected by Habermas is moral descriptivism, since this approach would be counter-intuitive as regards the normal use of our moral expressions. The paper finally seeks to respond to major objections descriptivist philosophers might raise against Habermas’s theory of morality, in particular against his analogy thesis between propositional truth and normative rightness. (shrink)
I argue that Frege's so-called "concept 'horse' problem" is not one problem but many. When these separate sub-problems are distinguished, some are revealed to be more tractable than others. I further argue that there is, contrary to a widespread scholarly assumption originating with Peter Geach, little evidence that Frege was concerned with the general problem of the inexpressibility of logical category distinctions in writings available to Wittgenstein. In consequence, Geach is mistaken in thinking that in the Tractatus (...) Wittgenstein simply accepts from Frege certain lessons about the inexpressibility of logical category distinctions and the say-show distinction. In truth, Wittgenstein drew his own morals about these matters, quite possibly as the result of reflecting on how the general problem of the inexpressibility of logical category distinctions arises in Frege's writings , but also, quite possibly, by seeing certain glimmerings of these doctrines in the writings of Russell. (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-Geachproblem. 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-Geachproblem. I end by briefly considering alternative hybrid views that employ the notion of conventional or conversational implicature. (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-Geachproblem; the problem (...) of wishful thinking; the role of moral intuitions; expressivism in aesthetics. (shrink)
Normative judgments involve two gradable features. First, the judgments themselves can come in degrees; second, the strength of reasons represented in the judgments can come in degrees. Michael Smith has argued that non-cognitivism cannot accommodate both of these gradable dimensions. The degrees of a non-cognitive state can stand in for degrees of judgment, or degrees of reason strength represented in judgment, but not both. I argue that (a) there are brands of noncognitivism that can surmount Smith’s challenge, and (b) any (...) brand of non-cognitivism that has even a chance of solving the Frege–Geach Problem and some related problems involving probabilistic consistency can also thereby solve Smith’s problem. Because only versions of non-cognitivism that can solve the Frege–Geach Problem are otherwise plausible, all otherwise plausible versions of noncognitivism can meet Smith’s challenge. (shrink)