Long claimed to be the dominant conception of practical reason, the Humean theory that reasons for action are instrumental, or explained by desires, is the basis for a range of worries about the objective prescriptivity of morality. As a result, it has come under intense attack in recent decades. A wide variety of arguments have been advanced which purport to show that it is false, or surprisingly, even that it is incoherent. Slaves of the Passions aims to set the record (...) straight, by advancing a version of the Humean theory of reasons which withstands this sophisticated array of objections. Schroeder defends a radical new view which, if correct, means that the commitments of the Humean theory have been widely misunderstood. Along the way, he raises and addresses questions about the fundamental structure of reasons, the nature of normative explanations, the aims of and challenges facing reductive views in metaethics, the weight of reasons, the nature of desire, moral epistemology, and most importantly, the relationship between agent-relational and agent-neutral reasons for action. (shrink)
This paper compares two alternative explanations of pragmatic encroachment on knowledge (i.e., the claim that whether an agent knows that p can depend on pragmatic factors). After reviewing the evidence for such pragmatic encroachment, we ask how it is best explained, assuming it obtains. Several authors have recently argued that the best explanation is provided by a particular account of belief, which we call pragmatic credal reductivism. On this view, what it is for an agent to believe a proposition is (...) for her credence in this proposition to be above a certain threshold, a threshold that varies depending on pragmatic factors. We show that while this account of belief can provide an elegant explanation of pragmatic encroachment on knowledge, it is not alone in doing so, for an alternative account of belief, which we call the reasoning disposition account, can do so as well. And the latter account, we argue, is far more plausible than pragmatic credal reductivism, since it accords far better with a number of claims about belief that are very hard to deny. (shrink)
In the Book of Common Prayer’s Rite II version of the Eucharist, the congregation confesses, “we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed”. According to this confession we wrong God not just by what we do and what we say, but also by what we think. The idea that we can wrong someone not just by what we do, but by what think or what we believe, is a natural one. It is the kind of wrong we feel (...) when those we love believe the worst about us. And it is one of the salient wrongs of racism and sexism. Yet it is puzzling to many philosophers how we could wrong one another by virtue of what we believe about them. This paper defends the idea that we can morally wrong one another by what we believe about them from two such puzzles. The first puzzle concerns whether we have the right sort of control over our beliefs for them to be subject to moral evaluation. And the second concerns whether moral wrongs would come into conflict with the distinctively epistemic standards that govern belief. Our answer to both puzzles is that the distinctively epistemic standards governing belief are not independent of moral considerations. This account of moral encroachment explains how epistemic norms governing belief are sensitive to the moral requirements governing belief. (shrink)
Like much in this book, the title and dust jacket illustration are clever. The first evokes Hume's remark in the Treatise that ‘Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions.’ The second, which represents a cross between a dance-step and a clinch, links up with the title and anticipates an example used throughout the book to support its central claims: that Ronnie, unlike Bradley, has a reason to go to a party – namely, that there will (...) be dancing at the party – because Ronnie, unlike Bradley, loves dancing. So, the explanation of why Ronnie's and Bradley's reasons differ lies in their respective psychologies.Schroeder argues for a version of the Humean Theory of Reasons he calls Hypotheticalism, which says that every reason is explained by a desire in the same way as Ronnie's is. Schroeder argues that on almost every count, Hypotheticalism is as good as, or preferable to, the Humean and non-Humean alternatives; and he defends it against an array of objections. For example, he explains that while Hypotheticalism claims that ‘desires have to serve in the explanation of every reason because desires are part of the correct analysis of reasons’, it does not claim that a desire that explains a reason is part of that reason: rather it is a background condition for it. This, Schroeder argues, allows him to rebut a variety of objections that depend on conflating reasons with their background conditions. Other …. (shrink)
Philosophers have come to distinguish between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ kinds of reasons for belief, intention, and other attitudes. Several theories about the nature of this distinction have been offered, by far the most prevalent of which is the idea that it is, at bottom, the distinction between what are known as ‘object-given’ and ‘state-given’ reasons. This paper argues that the object-given/state-given theory vastly overgeneralizes on a small set of data points, and in particular that any adequate account of the distinction (...) between the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ kinds of reason must allow state-given reasons to be of the right kind. The paper has three main goals, corresponding to its three main parts. In part 1 I set up the problem by introducing the right-kind/wrong-kind distinction, the object-given/state-given distinction, and the object-given/state-given theory, according to which the former distinction simply amounts to the latter. Part 2 presents the main argument of the paper: I argue against the object-given/state-given theory by showing that all of the earmarks of the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ kinds of reason apply to reasons not to intend and not to believe, but that these cases can’t be captured by the object-given/state-given theory. Finally, in part 3 I use these arguments to motivate and explore a more general hypothesis about the rightkind/wrong-kind distinction, and explore some of the consequences of rejecting the object-given/stategiven theory. (shrink)
What is it to have a reason? According to one common idea, the "Factoring Account", you have a reason to do A when there is a reason for you to do A which you have--which is somehow in your possession or grasp. In this paper, I argue that this common idea is false. But though my arguments are based on the practical case, the implications of this are likely to be greatest in epistemology: for the pitfalls we fall into when (...) trying to defend the Factoring Account reflect very well the major developments in empiricist epistemology during the 20th century. I conjecture that this is because epistemologists have been--wrongly--wedded to the Factoring Account about evidence, which I conjecture is a certain kind of reason to believe. (shrink)
Expressivism - the sophisticated contemporary incarnation of the noncognitivist research program of Ayer, Stevenson, and Hare - is no longer the province of metaethicists alone. Its comprehensive view about the nature of both normative language and normative thought has also recently been applied to many topics elsewhere in philosophy - including logic, probability, mental and linguistic content, knowledge, epistemic modals, belief, the a priori, and even quantifiers. Yet the semantic commitments of expressivism are still poorly understood and have not been (...) very far developed. As argued within, expressivists have not yet even managed to solve the "negation problem" - to explain why atomic normative sentences are inconsistent with their negations. As a result, it is far from clear that expressivism even could be true, let alone whether it is. Being For seeks to evaluate the semantic commitments of expressivism, by showing how an expressivist semantics would work, what it can do, and what kind of assumptions would be required, in order for it to do it. Building on a highly general understanding of the basic ideas of expressivism, it argues that expressivists can solve the negation problem - but only in one kind of way. It shows how this insight paves the way for an explanatorily powerful, constructive expressivist semantics, which solves many of what have been taken to be the deepest problems for expressivism. But it also argues that no account with these advantages can be generalized to deal with constructions like tense, modals, or binary quantifiers. Expressivism, the book argues, is coherent and interesting, but false. (shrink)
Fitting Attitudes accounts of value analogize or equate being good with being desirable, on the premise that ‘desirable’ means not, ‘able to be desired’, as Mill has been accused of mistakenly assuming, but ‘ought to be desired’, or something similar. The appeal of this idea is visible in the critical reaction to Mill, which generally goes along with his equation of ‘good’ with ‘desirable’ and only balks at the second step, and it crosses broad boundaries in terms of philosophers’ other (...) commitments. For example, Fitting Attitudes accounts play a central role both in T.M. Scanlon’s  case against teleology, and in Michael Smith , [unpublished] and Doug Portmore’s  cases for it. And of course they have a long and distinguished history. (shrink)
Particularists in ethics emphasize that the normative is holistic, and invite us to infer with them that it therefore defies generalization. This has been supposed to present an obstacle to traditional moral theorizing, to have striking implications for moral epistemology and moral deliberation, and to rule out reductive theories of the normative, making it a bold and important thesis across the areas of normative theory, moral epistemology, moral psychology, and normative metaphysics. Though particularists emphasize the importance of the holism of (...) the normative, however, it is not something that they have been able to explain. In this paper I’ll show how to use a small number of simple and, I’ll argue, independently compelling assumptions in order to both predict and explain the holistic features of the normative with respect to the non-normative. The basic idea of the paper is simple. It is that normative claims are holistic because they are general, rather than because they defy generalization. (shrink)
forthcoming in reisner and steglich-peterson, eds., Reasons for Belief If I believe, for no good reason, that P and I infer (correctly) from this that Q, I don’t think we want to say that I ‘have’ P as evidence for Q. Only things that I believe (or could believe) rationally, or perhaps, with justification, count as part of the evidence that I have. It seems to me that this is a good reason to include an epistemic acceptability constraint on evidence (...) possessed…1 It is a truism that adopting an unjustified belief does not put you in a better evidential position with respect to believing its consequences. This truism has led many philosophers to assume that there must, at a minimum, be a justification condition (and perhaps even a knowledge condition) on what it takes to count as having evidence. This is the best (or only) possible explanation of the truism, these philosophers have believed. This paper explores an alternative explanation for the truism. According to the alternative explanation that I will offer, unjustified beliefs do not put you in a better evidential position with respect to believing their consequences because any evidence you have in virtue of having an unjustified belief is guaranteed to be defeated. Since the lack of justification for a belief guarantees its defeat, I will suggest, we don't need to postulate a special justification condition (much less a knowledge condition) on what it takes to count as having evidence. Why is this important? It is important because the assumption that there must be a justification condition (or perhaps a knowledge condition) on what it takes to count as having evidence places a high bar on what it takes to have evidence - such a high bar that it is difficult to see how this bar could be met in the case of basic, perceptually justified beliefs. As a result, the high bar set by this condition plays a fundamental role, I will claim, in central features of a core dialectic from the epistemology of basic perceptual belief which plays a central role in the debates between internalism and externalism, foundationalism and coherentism, and rationalism and empiricism.. (shrink)
Intentions matter. They have some kind of normative impact on our agency. Something goes wrong when an agent intends some end and fails to carry out the means she believes to be necessary for it, and something goes right when, intending the end, she adopts the means she thinks are required. This has even been claimed to be one of the only uncontroversial truths in ethical theory. But not only is there widespread disagreement about why this is so, there is (...) widespread disagreement about in what sense it is so. In this paper I explore an underdeveloped answer to the question of in what sense it is so, and argue that resolving an apparent difficulty with this view leads to an attractive picture about why it is so. (shrink)
This paper is a survey of recent ‘hybrid’ approaches to metaethics, according to which moral sentences, in some sense or other, express both beliefs and desires. I try to show what kinds of theoretical issues come up at the different choice points we encounter in developing such a view, to raise some problems and explain where they come from, and to begin to get a sense for what the payoff of such views can be, and what they will need to (...) do in order to earn that payoff. (shrink)
Allow me to rehearse a familiar scenario. We all know that which ends you have has something to do with what you ought to do. If Ronnie is keen on dancing but Bradley can’t stand it, then the fact that there will be dancing at the party tonight affects what Ronnie and Bradley ought to do in different ways. In short, (HI) you ought, if you have the end, to take the means. But now trouble looms: what if you have (...) dreadful, murderous ends? Ought you to take the means to them? Seemingly not. But fortunately, an assumption made by deontic logics1 comes to the rescue. Since ‘‘ought’’, according to this assumption, is a sentential operator, HI must really be ambiguous. It could be read either as (Narrow) You have the end ! O(you take the means) or as (Wide) O(you have the end ! you take the means). Now if Narrow is true, then you really ought to take the means to your murderous ends. But this doesn’t follow from Wide. All that follows from Wide is that you ought to either take the means to these ends or else give them up. Conclusions: (1) Since HI is on some reading true, but Narrow isn’t, Wide is true. (2) Wide accounts for the relationship between your ends and what you ought to do. This elegant scenario repeats itself in many other domains in which it seems like something can have a bearing on what some particular agent ought to do. Does what you know affect what you ought to do? Do your beliefs about what you ought to do affect what you ought to do? Do your promises affect what you ought to do? Do your beliefs affect what you ought to believe? On each of these counts, the intuitive answer is ‘‘yes’’. And so each of these questions leaves something for the moral philosopher or the epistemologist to investigate. On each count, it seems that what we all know, is that (Account) you ought, if p, to do A. But on each count, the Narrow-scope reading of the ‘‘ought’’ in this claim yields unintuitive consequences. So since Account is true, it must be true on the Wide-scope reading.. (shrink)
Several authors have recently endorsed the thesis that there is what has been called pragmatic encroachment on knowledge—in other words, that two people who are in the same situation with respect to truth-related factors may differ in whether they know something, due to a difference in their practical circumstances. This paper aims not to defend this thesis, but to explore how it could be true. What I aim to do, is to show how practical factors could play a role in (...) defeating knowledge by defeating epistemic rationality—the very kind of rationality that is entailed by knowledge, and in which Pascalian considerations do not play any role—even though epistemic rationality consists in having adequate evidence. (shrink)
Expressivism - the sophisticated contemporary incarnation of the noncognitivist research program of Ayer, Stevenson, and Hare - is no longer the province of metaethicists alone. Its comprehensive view about the nature of both normative language and normative thought has also recently been applied to many topics elsewhere in philosophy - including logic, probability, mental and linguistic content, knowledge, epistemic modals, belief, the a priori, and even quantifiers. [...] Expressivism, the book argues, is coherent and interesting, but false.
Expressivists have a problem with negation. The problem is that they have not, to date, been able to explain why ‘murdering is wrong’ and ‘murdering is not wrong’ are inconsistent sentences. In this paper, I explain the nature of the problem, and why the best efforts of Gibbard, Dreier, and Horgan and Timmons don’t solve it. Then I show how to diagnose where the problem comes from, and consequently how it is possible for expressivists to solve it. Expressivists should accept (...) this solution, I argue, because it is demonstrably the only way of avoiding the problem, and because it generalizes. Once we see how to solve the negation problem, I show, it becomes easy to state a constructive, compositional expressivist semantics for a purely normative language with the expressive power of propositional logic, in which we can for the first time give explanatory, formally adequate expressivist accounts of logical inconsistency, logical entailment, and logical validity. As a corollary, I give what I take to be the first real expressivist explanation of why Geach’s original moral modus ponens argument is genuinely logically valid. This proves that the problem with expressivism cannot be that it can’t account for the logical properties of complex normative sentences. But it does not show that the same solution can work for a language with both normative and descriptive predicates, let alone that expressivists are able to deal with more complex linguistic constructions like tense, modals, or even quantifiers. In the final section, I show what kind of constraints the solution offered here would place expressivists under, in answering these further questions. (shrink)
It doesn’t seem possible to be a realist about the traditional Christian God while claiming to be able to reduce God talk in naturalistically acceptable terms. Reduction, in this case, seems obviously eliminativist. Many philosophers seem to think that the same is true of the normative—that reductive “realists” about the normative are not really realists about the normative at all, or at least, only in some attenuated sense. This paper takes on the challenge of articulating what it is that makes (...) reductive theological realism look hopeless, with the aim of explaining why we should think that the normative is relevantly different. Although it follows from my diagnosis that reductivists have their work cut out for them, I find nothing which suggests that the prospects for a successful reductive realism about the normative are in any way diminished—particularly for reductive views about reasons. Even reductivists, I argue, can at least aspire to a realism that is robust. (shrink)
According to noncognitivists, when we say that stealing is wrong, what we are doing is more like venting our feelings about stealing or encouraging one another not to steal, than like stating facts about morality. These ideas challenge the core not only of much thinking about morality and metaethics, but also of much philosophical thought about language and meaning. _Noncognitivism in Ethics_ is an outstanding introduction to these theories, ranging from their early history through the latest contemporary developments. Beginning with (...) a general introduction to metaethics, Mark Schroeder introduces and assesses three principal kinds of noncognitivist theory: the speech-act theories of Ayer, Stevenson, and Hare, the expressivist theories of Blackburn and Gibbard, and hybrid theories. He pays particular attention both to the philosophical problems about what moral facts could be about or how they could matter which noncognitivism seeks to solve, and to the deep problems that it faces, including the task of explaining both the nature of moral thought and the complexity of moral attitudes, and the ‘Frege-Geach’ problem. Schroeder makes even the most difficult material accessible by offering crucial background along the way. Also included are exercises at the end of each chapter, chapter summaries, and a glossary of technical terms - making _Noncognitivism in Ethics_ essential reading for all students of ethics and metaethics. (shrink)
It is now generally understood that constraints play an important role in commonsense moral thinking and generally accepted that they cannot be accommodated by ordinary, traditional consequentialism. Some have seen this as the most conclusive evidence that consequentialism is hopelessly wrong,1 while others have seen it as the most conclusive evidence that moral common sense is hopelessly paradoxical.2 Fortunately, or so it is widely thought, in the last twenty-five years a new research program, that of Agent-Relative Teleology, has come to (...) the rescue on all sides. While consequentialism says that every agent ought always to do that action that will bring about the most good, according to Agent- Relative Teleology. (shrink)
This paper addresses the two extensional objections to the Humean Theory of Reasons—that it allows for too many reasons, and that it allows for too few. Although I won’t argue so here, manyof the other objections to the Humean Theoryof Reasons turn on assuming that it cannot successfully deal with these two objections.1 What I will argue, is that the force of the too many and the too few objections to the Humean Theorydepend on whether we assume that Humeans are (...) committed to a thesis about the weight of reasons—one I call Proportionalism. In particular, I’ll show how a version of the Humean Theorythat rejects Proportionalism can reasonablyhope to escape both the too many and the too few objections. This will constitute my defense of this version of the Humean Theory. But then, separately, I will argue that this defense of the Humean Theoryis not ad hoc. I’ll argue that Humeans have no reason to accept Proportionalism in the first place. Or at least, no weightyone. There are three parts to the paper. In Part 1 we introduce the Humean Theoryand the too few reasons objection. I’ll first layout the objection, and then layout the basis for a response on behalf of myfavored version of the Humean Theory. There will be an obvious objection to my defense— but it will turn out to depend on the assumption of Proportionalism. This will constitute myargument that the susceptibilityof the Humean Theoryto.. (shrink)
My project in Being For is both constructive and negative. The main aim of the book is to take the core ideas of meta-ethical expressivism as far as they can go, and to try to develop a version of expressivism that solves many of the more straightforward open problems that have faced the view without being squarely confronted. In doing so, I develop an expressivist framework that I call biforcated attitude semantics, which I claim has the minimal structural features required (...) in order to solve some of these open problems facing expressivism. I take biforcated attitude semantics to prove that expressivism is a coherent and interesting hypothesis about the semantics of natural languages.So much for the constructive part; having argued that biforcated attitude semantics incorporates the minimal moves required in order to solve a few of the more pressing open questions facing expressivism, I use it in order to productively constrain what an expressivist answer to further open questions must look like. The results, I end up arguing, are ultimately not promising; the very same structural features that expressivists need in order to answer so simple a problem as to explain why ‘P’ and ‘∼P’ are inconsistent sentences lead to a very general problem about how ordinary, non-moral sentences are to end up with the right truth-conditions, and though I show how to finesse this problem for some simple constructions – truth-conditional connectives and the quantifiers – I ultimately argue that it can’t be done for the full range of constructions in natural languages – including terms like modals, tense and binary quantifiers like ‘most’. So even if expressivism is coherent and interesting, it is an extremely unpromising hypothesis about the language that we actually speak.The main theme of the book is that the most fruitful way …. (shrink)
The phenomenon of disagreement has recently been brought into focus by the debate between contextualists and relativist invariantists about epistemic expressions such as ‘might’, ‘probably’, indicative conditionals, and the deontic ‘ought’. Against the orthodox contextualist view, it has been argued that an invariantist account can better explain apparent disagreements across contexts by appeal to the incompatibility of the propositions expressed in those contexts. This paper introduces an important and underappreciated phenomenon associated with epistemic expressions — a phenomenon that we call (...) reversibility. We argue that the invariantist account of disagreement is incompatible with reversibility, and we go on to show that reversible sentences cast doubt on the putative data about disagreement, even without assuming invariantism. Our argument therefore undermines much of the motivation for invariantism, and provides a new source for constraints on the proper explanation of purported data about disagreement. (shrink)
This paper addresses the question: ‘what makes reasons sufficient?’ and offers the answer, ‘being at least as weighty as the reasons for the alternatives’. The paper starts by introducing some of the reasons why sufficiency has seemed difficult to understand, particularly in epistemology, and some circumstantial evidence that this has contributed to more general problems in the epistemological literature. It then introduces the positive account of sufficiency, and explains how this captures sufficiency in both the practical and epistemic domains. Finally, (...) the paper shows how once we understand the nature of sufficiency, it is easy to predict the full variety of ways in which rationality – both of action and of belief – can be defeated. (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)
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-Geach Problem, 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)
Expressivism’s central idea is that normative sentences bear the same relation to non-cognitive attitudes that ordinary descriptive sentences bear to beliefs: the expression relation. Allan Gibbard teIls us that “that words express judgments will be accepted by almost everyone” - the distinctive contribution of expressivism, his claim goes, is only a view about what kind of judgments words express. But not every account of the expression relation is equally suitable for the expressivist’s purposes. In fact, what I argue in this (...) paper, considering four possible accounts of expression, is that how suitable each account is for the expressivist’s purpose varies in proportion to how controversial it is. So Gibbard is wrong - if expression is to get expressivism off the ground, then it will be enormously controversial whether words do express judgments. And thus expressivism is committed to strong claims about the semantics of non-normative language. (shrink)
According to a naive view sometimes apparent in the writings of moral philosophers, 'ought' often expresses a relation between agents and actions—the relation that obtains between an agent and an action when that action is what that agent ought to do. It is not part of this naive view that 'ought' always expresses this relation—adherents of the naive view are happy to allow that 'ought' also has an evaluative sense, on which it means, roughly, that were things ideal, some proposition (...) would be the case. What is important to the naive view is that there is also a deliberative sense of 'ought', on which it relates agents to actions. In contrast, logically and linguistically sophisticated philosophers have typically rejected this naive view. According to them, there is no argument-place for an agent in any relation expressed by 'ought', nor is there any argument-place for an action. According to this view, if Jim ought to jam, that is not because there is a special distinctive deliberative ought relation between Jim and jamming; rather, it is because a certain proposition ought to be the case: namely, that Jim jams. This essay defends the naive view, by first arguing that there are two distinct normative senses of 'ought', which actually exhibit different syntactic behavior, and then going on to argue that the deliberative sense of 'ought' relates agents to actions, rather than to propositions. It closes by drawing lessons for a range of issues in moral theory. (shrink)
This paper considers the connection between the three-place relation, R is a reason for X to do A and the two-place relation, R is a reason to do A. I consider three views on which the former is to be analyzed in terms of the latter. I argue that these views are widely held, and explain the role that they play in motivating interesting substantive ethical theories. But I reject them in favor of a more obvious analysis, which goes the (...) other way around. (shrink)
Reply to Shafer-Landau, Mcpherson, and Dancy Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11098-010-9659-0 Authors Mark Schroeder, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
According to the standard view, Kant held that hypothetical imperatives are universally binding edicts with disjunctive objects: take-the-means-or-don't-have-the-end. But Kant thought otherwise. He held that they are edicts binding only on some - those who have an end.
This article considers two important problems for the idea that what we ought to do is determined by the balance of competing reasons. The problems are distinct, but the object of the article is to explore how they admit of a single solution. It is a consequence of this solution that objective reasons—facts that count in favor—are in an important sense less objective than they have consistently been assumed to be. This raises but does not answer the question as to (...) what evidence we ever had that reasons are as objective as has been assumed. (shrink)
Moral theories usually aspire to be explanatory – to tell us why something is wrong, why it is good, or why you ought to do it. So it is worth knowing how moral explanations differ, if they do, from explanations of other things. This paper uncovers a common unarticulated theory about how normative explanations must work – that they must follow what I call the Standard Model. Though the Standard Model Theory has many implications, in this paper I focus primarily (...) on only one. It plays a crucial role in an argument originally due to Cudworth that has been widely held to conclusively establish that voluntaristic ethical theories are incoherent. But if Cudworth’s argument works, then so would similar arguments against many other moral theories. All of these theories therefore need a different model for how normative explanations can work. So I also motivate and sketch one such alternative model. The result enables us to make progress in evaluating the prospects for a successful reductive view about the normative. (shrink)
In this paper I explore why one might hope to, and how to begin to, develop an expressivist account of truth – that is, a semantics for ‘true’ and ‘false’ within an expressivist framework. I do so for a few reasons: because certain features of deflationism seem to me to require some sort of nondescriptivist semantics, because of all nondescriptivist semantic frameworks which are capable of yielding definite predictions rather than consisting merely of hand-waving, expressivism is that with which I (...) am most familiar, and because I believe that certain problems about truth and particularly about paradox seem to me to look different, when seen through the lens of an expressivist theory. I don’t mean to defend such a theory in this paper, and indeed I have cast doubts on the ultimate prospects of the framework I will be employing here elsewhere.1 But I do think that seeing what an expressivist theory of truth would look like helps to shed light on both expressivism and on truth. (shrink)
When it comes to evaluating reductive hypotheses in metaphysics, supervenience arguments are the tools of the trade. Jaegwon Kim and Frank Jackson have argued, respectively, that strong and global supervenience are sufficient for reduction, and others have argued that supervenience theses stand in need of the kind of explanation that reductive hypotheses are particularly suited to provide. Simon Blackburn's arguments about what he claims are the specifically problematic features of the supervenience of the moral on the natural have also been (...) influential. But most discussions of these arguments have proceeded under the strong and restrictive assumptions of the S5 modal logic. In this paper we aim to remedy that defect, by illustrating in an accessible way what happens to these arguments under relaxed assumptions and why. The occasion is recent work by Ralph Wedgwood, who seeks to defend non-reductive accounts of moral and mental properties together with strong supervenience, but to evade both the arguments of Kim and Jackson and the explanatory challenge by accepting only the weaker, B, modal logic. In addition to drawing general lessons about what happens to supervenience arguments under relaxed assumptions, our goal is therefore to shed some light on both the virtues and costs of Wedgwood's proposal. (shrink)
Jason Stanley's Know How aims to offer an attractive intellectualist analysis of knowledge how that is compositionally predicted by the best available treatments of sentences like 'Emile knows how to make his dad smile.' This paper explores one significant way in which Stanley's compositional treatment fails to generate his preferred account, and advocates a minimal solution.
This volume presents over a decade of work by Mark Schroeder, one of the leading figures in contemporary metaethics. One new and ten previously published papers weave together treatments of reasons, reduction, supervenience, instrumental rationality, and legislation, to explore the nature and limits of moral explanation.
Buck-passers about value accept two theses about value, a negative thesis and a positive. The negative thesis is that the fact that something is valuable is not itself a reason to promote or appreciate it. The positive thesis is that the fact that something is valuable consists in the fact that there are other reasons to promote or appreciate it. Buck-passers suppose that the negative thesis follows from the positive one, and sometimes insist on it as if it is the (...) central part of their view. But as I'll explain here, what we say about the negative thesis is orthogonal to what we say about the positive one. (shrink)
Metaethics is the study of metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language, insofar as they relate to the subject matter of moral or, more broadly, normative discourse – the subject matter of what is good, bad, right or wrong, just, reasonable, rational, what we must or ought to do, or otherwise. But out of these four ‘core’ areas of philosophy, it is plausibly the philosophy of language that is most central to metaethics – and not simply (...) because ‘metaethics’ was for a long time construed more narrowly as a name for the study of moral language. The philosophy of language is central to metaethics because both the advantages of and the open problems facing different metaethical theories differ sharply over the answers those theories give to central questions in the philosophy of language. In fact, among the open problems over which such theories differ, are included particularly further problems in the philosophy of language. This article briefly surveys a range of broad categories of views in metaethics and both catalogues some of the principal issues faced by each in the philosophy of language, as well as how those arise out of their answers to more basic questions in the philosophy of language. I make no claim to completeness, only to raising a variety of important issues. (shrink)
Douglas Portmore has recently argued in this journal for a "promising result" – that combining teleological ethics with "evaluator relativism" about the good allows an ethical theory to account for deontological intuitions while "accommodat[ing] the compelling idea that it is always permissible to bring about the best available state of affairs." I show that this result is false. It follows from the indexical semantics of evaluator relativism that Portmore's compelling idea is false. I also try to explain what might have (...) led to this misunderstanding. (shrink)
Next SectionIn a recent article in this journal, John Skorupski alleges that the expressivist view developed in Being For fails on its own terms. However, in order to set up his criticism of my book, he helps himself to the very assumption that it is the main contribution of my book to show how to reject. It is hardly a problem for me that you can re-create the problem I showed how to solve by making the very assumption that I (...) showed led to the problem. This article illustrates what might have led to Skorupski's confusion. (shrink)
Nondescriptivist views in many areas of philosophy have long been associated with the commitment that in contrast to other domains of discourse, there are no propositions in their particular domain. For example, the ‘no truth conditions’ theory of conditionals1 is understood as the view that conditionals don’t express propositions, noncognitivist expressivism in metaethics is understood as advocating the view that there are not really moral propositions,2 and expressivism about epistemic modals is thought of as the view that there is no (...) such thing as the proposition that Jack might be at home, over and above the proposition that Jack is at home.3 Of course, it is nearly always acknowledged that advocates of a nondescriptivist theory need not deny that there are conditional, moral, or modal propositions ‘at the end of the day’ – for if they also endorse a deflationary reading of talk about propositions, as famously advocated by Simon Blackburn, then they can employ such deflationary talk just as much as the rest of us. They just don’t appeal to propositions to do any of the work in their theories. Rather, they ‘earn the right’ to talk about propositions.4 It is the aim of this paper to upset this way of thinking about the proper attitude of nondescriptivists toward propositions, and to advocate a more constructive and in some ways more radical alternative on behalf of the nondescriptivist. I will begin by introducing and developing a set of problems that are faced by any nondescriptivist theory which tries to do without propositions. All of these problems are easily solved by any view which postulates propositions across the board, but none of them are solved by merely deflationary talk about propositions – their most promising solutions require propositions to do real theoretical work, and therefore the problems themselves remind us of and illustrate some of the important reasons why it is worth positing propositions in the first place.. (shrink)