Advocates of Expressivism about basically any kind of language are best-served by abandoning a traditional content-centric approach to semantic theorizing, in favor of an update-centric or dynamic approach (or so this paper argues). The type of dynamic approach developed here — in contrast to the content-centric approach — is argued to yield canonical, if not strictly classical, "explanations" of the core semantic properties of the connectives. (The cases on which I focus most here are negation and disjunction.) I end (...) the paper by describing a distinctive sense in which mental states might play a fundamental role in the practice of semantic theorizing (as I understand it), and I connect this to a distinctive account of the pragmatic function of, e.g., a normatively laden claim in discourse. (shrink)
I offer a new theory of faultless disagreement, according to which truth is absolute (non-relative) but can still be non-objective. What's relative is truth-aptness: a sentence like ‘Vegemite is tasty’ (V) can be truth-accessible and bivalent in one context but not in another. Within a context in which V fails to be bivalent, we can affirm that there is no issue of truth or falsity about V, still disputants, affirming and denying V, were not at fault, since, in their context (...) of assertion V was bivalent. This theory requires a theory of assertion that is a form of cognitive expressivism. (shrink)
It is often claimed that there is an explanatory divide between an expressivist account of normative discourse and a realist conception of normativity: more precisely, that expressivism and realism offer conflicting explanations of (i) the metaphysical structure of the normative realm, (ii) the connection between normative judgment and motivation, (iii) our normative beliefs and any convergence thereof, or (iv) the content of normative thoughts and claims. In this paper I argue that there need be no such explanatory conflict. Given (...) a minimalist approach to the relevant metaphysical and semantic notions, expressivism is compatible with any explanation that would be acceptable as a general criterion for realism. (shrink)
In contemporary metaethics, various versions of hybrid expressivism have been proposed according to which moral sentences express both non-cognitive attitudes and beliefs. One important advantage with such positions, its proponents argue, is that they, in contrast to pure expressivism, have a straightforward way of avoiding the Frege-Geach problem. In this paper, I provide a systematic examination of different versions of hybrid expressivism with particular regard to how they are assumed to evade this problem. The major conclusion is (...) that none of these views succeeds to provide both a fully satisfying interpretation of moral sentences and a convincing response to the Frege-Geach problem. I end by briefly considering alternative hybrid views that employ the notion of conventional or conversational implicature. (shrink)
Epistemic expressivism is the application of a nexus of ideas, which is prominent in ethical theory (more specifically, metaethics), to parallel issues in epistemological theory (more specifically, metaepistemology). Here, in order to help those new to the debate come to grips with epistemic expressivism and recent discussions of it, I first briefly present this nexus of ideas as it occurs in ethical expressivism. Then, I explain why and how some philosophers have sought to extend it to a (...) version of epistemic expressivism. Finally, I consider a number of objections and replies with the aim of giving the reader the tools needed to begin to evaluate the promise and prospects of epistemic expressivism. (shrink)
I respond to an interesting objection to my 2014 argument against hermeneutic expressivism. I argue that even though Toppinen has identified an intriguing route for the expressivist to tread, the plausible developments of it would not fall to my argument anyways---as they do not make direct use of the parity thesis which claims that expression works the same way in the case of conative and cognitive attitudes. I close by sketching a few other problems plaguing such views.
This paper is a reply to Michael Lynch's "Truth, Value and Epistemic Expressivism" in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research for 2009. It argues that Lynch's argument against expressivism fails because of an ambiguity in the employed notion of an 'epistemically disengaged standpoint'.
My goal is to illuminate truth-making by way of illuminating the relation of making. My strategy is not to ask what making is, in the hope of a metaphysical theory about is nature. It's rather to look first to the language of making. The metaphor behind making refers to agency. It would be absurd to suggest that claims about making are claims about agency. It is not absurd, however, to propose that the concept of making somehow emerges from some feature (...) to do with agency. That's the contention to be explore in this paper. The way to do this is through expressivism,. Truth-making claims, and making-claims generfally, are claims in which we express mental states linked to our maipulation of concepts, like truth. In particular, they express disposition to undertake derivations using inference rules, in which introduction rules have a specific role. I then show how this theory explains our intuitions about truth's asymmetric dependence on being. (shrink)
Expressivists explain the expression relation which obtains between sincere moral assertion and the conative or affective attitude thereby expressed by appeal to the relation which obtains between sincere assertion and belief. In fact, they often explicitly take the relation between moral assertion and their favored conative or affective attitude to be exactly the same as the relation between assertion and the belief thereby expressed. If this is correct, then we can use the identity of the expression relation in the two (...) cases to test the expressivist account as a descriptive or hermeneutic account of moral discourse. I formulate one such test, drawing on a standard explanation of Moore's paradox. I show that if expressivism is correct as a descriptive account of moral discourse, then we should expect versions of Moore's paradox where we explicitly deny that we possess certain affective or conative attitudes. I then argue that the constructions that mirror Moore's paradox are not incoherent. It follows that expressivism is either incorrect as a hermeneutic account of moral discourse or that the expression relation which holds between sincere moral assertion and affective or conative attitudes is not identical to the relation which holds between sincere non-moral assertion and belief. A number of objections are canvassed and rejected. (shrink)
The present paper argues that there are at least two equally plausible yet mutually incompatible answers to the question of what is of non-instrumental epistemic value. The hypothesis invoked to explain how this can be so—moderate epistemic expressivism—holds that (a) claims about epistemic value express nothing but commitments to particular goals of inquiry, and (b) there are at least two viable conceptions of those goals. It is shown that such expressivism survives recent arguments against a more radical form (...) of epistemic expressivism, as well as two further arguments, framed in terms of the two most promising attempts to ground claims about epistemic value in something other than commitments to particular conceptions of inquiry. While this does not establish that moderate epistemic expressivism is true, its ability to explain a significant but puzzling axiological datum, as well as withstand strong counterarguments, makes clear that it is a theory to be reckoned with. (shrink)
This paper is about Truth Minimalism, Norm Expressivism, and the relation between them. In particular, it is about whether Truth Minimalism can help to solve a problem thought to plague Norm Expressivism. To start with, let me explain what I mean by 'Truth Minimalism' and 'Norm Expressivism.'.
According to expressivism, moral judgments are desire-like states of mind. It is often argued that this view is made implausible because it isn’t consistent with the conceivability of amoralists, i.e., agents who make moral judgments yet lack motivation. In response, expressivists can invoke the distinction between dispositional and occurrent desires. Strandberg (Am Philos Quart 49:81–91, 2012) has recently argued that this distinction does not save expressivism. Indeed, it can be used to argue that expressivism is false. In (...) this paper I argue that expressivism is a much more complex thesis than Strandberg assumes. Once these complexities are acknowledged, Strandberg’s arguments are rendered ineffective and expressivism rendered more plausible. (shrink)
Jackson and Pettit argue that expressivism in metaethics collapses into subjectivism. A sincere utterer of a moral claim must believe that she has certain attitudes to be expressed. The truth-conditions of that belief then allegedly provide truth-conditions also for the moral utterance. Thus, the expressivist cannot deny that moral claims have subjectivist truth-conditions. Critics have argued that this argument fails as stated. I try to show that expressivism does have subjectivist repercussions in a way that avoids the problems (...) of the Jackson-Pettit argument. My argument, based on the norms for asserting moral sentences, attempts to tie expressivists to a more modest form of subjectivism than the previous arguments. (shrink)
Expressivist views of an area of discourse encourage us to ask not about the nature of the relevant kinds of values but rather about the nature of the relevant kind of evaluations. Their answer to the latter question typically claims some interesting disanalogy between those kinds of evaluations and descriptions of the world. It does so in hope of providing traction against naturalism-inspired ontological and epistemological worries threatening more ‘realist’ positions. This is a familiar position regarding ethical discourse; however, some (...) authors have recently defended a similar view regarding epistemic discourse. Others have argued that epistemic expressivism faces special problems, not necessarily attaching to expressivism about other areas. Their arguments differ in interesting ways, but the common strategy is an attempt to show that the very sort of meta-epistemological theorizing needed to articulate and establish epistemic expressivism involves the epistemic expressivist in some sort of internal incoherence or self-defeat. That is, they think that articulating or defending the position requires implicit commitment to the negation of one of the positions core tenets. This paper responds to those arguments on behalf of epistemic expressivism, suggesting that they each misunderstand what is crucial to epistemic expressivism. By responding to these arguments, we hope to achieve more clarity about what epistemic expressivism is and why one might want to endorse it in a meta-epistemology. (shrink)
The Negation Problem states that expressivism has insufficient structure to account for the various ways in which a moral sentence can be negated. We argue that the Negation Problem does not arise for expressivist accounts of all normative language but arises only for the specific examples on which expressivists usually focus. In support of this claim, we argue for the following three theses: 1) a problem that is structurally identical to the Negation Problem arises in non-normative cases, and this (...) problem is solved once the hidden quantificational structure involved in such cases is uncovered; 2) the terms ‘required’, ‘permissible’, and ‘forbidden’ can also be analyzed in terms of hidden quantificational structure, and the Negation Problem disappears once this hidden structure is uncovered; 3) the Negation Problem does not arise for normative language that has no hidden quantificational structure. We conclude that the Negation Problem is not really a problem about expressivism at all but is rather a feature of the quantificational structure of the required, permitted, and forbidden. (shrink)
The aim of the paper is to state a version of epistemic expressivism regarding knowledge, and to suggest how this expressivism about knowledge explains the value of knowledge. The paper considers how an account of the value of knowledge based on expressivism about knowledge responds to the Meno Problem, the Swamping Problem, and a variety of other questions that pertains to the value of knowledge, and the role of knowledge in our cognitive ecology.
Allan Gibbard maintains that his plan-based expressivism allows for a particular type of innocent mistake: I can agree that your plan to X makes sense (say, because it was based on advice from someone you trust), while nonetheless insisting that it is incorrect (e.g., because you chose a bad advisor). However, Steve Daskal has recently argued that there are significant limitations in Gibbard’s account of how we can be mistaken about the normative judgments we make. This essay refines Gibbard’s (...) account in order to show--contra Daskal--that expressivists can deliver a surprisingly robust form of normative objectivity. (shrink)
Can we believe that there are non-existent entities without commitment to the Meinongian metaphysics? This paper argues we can. What leads us from quantification over non-existent beings to Meinongianism is a general metaphysical assumption about reality at large, and not merely quantification over the non-existent. Broadly speaking, the assumption is that every being we talk about must have a real definition. It’s this assumption that drives us to enquire into the nature of beings like Pegasus, and what our relationship as (...) thinkers is to them. However, I argue this assumption only holds if you think your language, and in particular that aspect of it to do with referring to entities works in a specific way. This is the specific way generally assumed by the discipline called ‘Semantics’. I sketch out an alternative, call it global expressivism, in which talk of referring is given an expressivist, speech-act theoretic treatment. If we accept that our talk of the non-existent works as the global expressivist tells us it does, then the question of the metaphysical nature of non-existent entities is utterly void. You might say that Pegasus is empty of any metaphysical nature. Since the non-existent lacks any metaphysical nature, the metaphysics of the non-existent, Meinongianism, as a form of inquiry, lacks a subject matter, despite the fact that we talk happily, and indeed unavoidably, of the non-existent. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that the common practice of employing moral predicates as explaining phrases can be accommodated on an expressivist account of moral practice. This account does not treat moral explanations as in any way second-rate or derivative, since it subsumes moral explanations under the general theory of program explanations (as defended by Jackson and Pettit). It follows that the phenomenon of moral explanations cannot be used to adjudicate the debate between expressivism and its rivals.
This paper is a concise survey of recent expressivist theories of discourse, focusing on the ethical case. For each topic discussed recent trends are summarised and suggestions for further reading provided. Issues covered include: the nature of the moral attitude; ‘hybrid’ views according to which moral judgements express both beliefs and attitudes; the quasi-realist programmes of Simon Blackburn and Allan Gibbard; the problem of creeping minimalism; the nature of the ‘expression’ relation; the Frege-Geach problem; the problem of wishful thinking; the (...) role of moral intuitions; expressivism in aesthetics. (shrink)
This paper argues that expressivism faces serious difficulties giving an adequate account of univocal moral disagreements. Expressivist accounts of moral discourse understand moral judgments in terms of various noncognitive mental states, and they interpret moral disagreements as clashes between competing (and incompatible) attitudes. I argue that, for various reasons, expressivists must specify just what mental states are involved in moral judgment. If they do not, we lack a way of distinguishing moral judgments from other sorts of assessment and thus (...) for identifying narrowly moral disagreements. If they do, we can construct cases of intuitively real dispute that do not rest on the theory’s preferred mental states. This strategy is possible because our intuitions about moral concept-ascription do not track speakers’ noncognitive states. I discuss various ways of developing this basic argument, then apply it to the work of the two most sophisticated proponents of expressivism, Allan Gibbard and Simon Blackburn. I argue that neither is successful in meeting the challenge. (shrink)
Can hybridism about moral claims be made to work? I argue it can if we accept the conventional implicature approach developed in Barker (Analysis 2000). However, this kind of hybrid expressivism is only acceptable if we can make sense of conventional implicature, the kind of meaning carried by operators like ‘even’, ‘but’, etc. Conventional implictures are a form of pragmatic presupposition, which involves an unsaid mode of delivery of content. I argue that we can make sense of conventional implicatures, (...) but doing so requires we embrace a form of pure, non-hybrid expressivism. This is a cognitivist expressivism I have developed elsewhere. We need cognitivist expressivism to make sense of how we evaluate—judge as correct or incorrect—implicature-bearing sentences. Once we embraced the possibility of this pure expressivism, we might as well be pure expressivists about normative discourse too. I show how we can do that. The motivations for a specifically hybrid theory are dialectically undercut. (shrink)
Consider the claim that openmindedness is an epistemic virtue, the claim that true belief is epistemically valuable, and the claim that one epistemically ought to cleave to one’s evidence. These are examples of what I’ll call “ epistemic discourse.” In this paper I’ll propose and defend a view called “convention-relativism about epistemic discourse.” In particular, I’ll argue that convention-relativismis superior to its main rival, expressivism about epistemic discourse. Expressivism and conventionalism both jibe with anti-realism about epistemic normativity, which (...) is motivated by appeal to philosophical naturalism. Convention-relativism says that epistemic discourse describes how things stands relative to a conventional set of “ epistemic ” values; such discourse is akin to normative discourse relative to the conventional rules of a club. I defend conventionalism by appeal to a “reverse open question argument,” which says, pace expressivism, that epistemic discourse leaves the relevant normative questions open. (shrink)
Over the years, metaethicists have witnessed the rise of a cottage industry devoted to claiming that expressivist analyses cannot capture some allegedly important feature of moral language. In this paper, I show how Simon Blackburn's pragmatist method enables him to respond decisively to many of these objections. In doing so, I hope to call into question some prevailing assumptions about the linguistic phenomena that a metaethical theory should be expected to capture.
James Dreier (Philos Perspect 18: 23-44, 2004) states what he calls the "Problem of Creeping Minimalism": that metaethical Expressivists can accept a series of claims about meaning, under which all of the sentences that Realists can accept are consistent with Expressivism. This would allow Expressivists to accept all of the Realist's sentences, and as Dreier points out, make it difficult to say what the difference between the two views is. That Expressivists can accept these claims about meaning has been (...) suggested by Simon Blackburn on behalf of his "quasirealist". I argue against the assumption that there is a way to interpret the Realist's sentences in a way that renders them consistent with Expressivism. (shrink)
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)
Metaethical expressivists claim that we can explain what moral words like ‘wrong’ mean without having to know what they are about – but rather by saying what it is to think that something is wrong – namely, to disapprove of it. Given the close connection between expressivists’ theory of the meaning of moral words and our attitudes of approval and disapproval, expressivists have had a hard time shaking the intuitive charge that theirs is an objectionably subjectivist or mind-dependent view of (...) morality. Expressivism, critics have charged over and again, is committed to the view that what is wrong somehow depends on or at least correlates with the attitudes that we have toward it. Arguments to this effect are sometimes subtle, and sometimes rely on fancy machinery, but they all share a common flaw. They all fail to respect the fundamental idea of expressivism: that ‘stealing is wrong’ bears exactly the same relationship to disapproval of stealing as ‘grass is green’ bears to the belief that grass is green. In this paper I rehearse the motivations for the fundamental idea of expressivism and show how the arguments of Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit , Russ Shafer-Landau , Jussi Suikkanen , and Christopher Peacocke  all fail on this same rock. In part 1 I’ll rehearse the motivation for expressivism – a motivation which directly explains why it does not have subjectivist consequences. Then in each of parts 2-5 I’ll illustrate how each of Jackson and Pettit’s, Peacocke’s, Shafer-Landau’s, and Suikkanen’s arguments work, respectively, and why each of them fails to respect the fundamental parity at the heart of expressivism. Though others have tried before me to explain why expressivism is not committed to any kind of subjectivism or mind-dependence – prominently including Blackburn , , Horgan and Timmons , and, in response to Pettit and Jackson, Dreier  and Smith and Stoljar , the explanation offered in this article is distinguished by its scope and generality.. (shrink)
Contemporary discussions of expressivism in metaethics tend to run together two quite different antidescriptivist views, and only one of them is subject to the objection about compositional semantics pressed most recently by Schroeder (following Dreier, Unwinn, Hale, Geach and others). Here I distinguish the two versions of expressivism and then go on to suggest that those sympathetic to the second sort of expressivism might improve their account of normative vocabulary and the way it figures in reasoning by (...) making what may seem like a somewhat surprising comparison between normative vocabulary and logical vocabulary. I argue that this comparison brings into view the initial steps towards a third antidescriptivist view in metaethics, which we may see as a pragmatist improvement on the second version of expressivism. (shrink)
One’s account of the meaning of ethical sentences should fit – roughly, as part to whole – with one’s account of the meaning of sentences in general. When we ask, though, where one widely discussed account of the meaning of ethical sentences fits with more general accounts of meaning, the answer is frustratingly unclear. The account I have in mind is the sort of metaethical expressivism inspired by Ayer, Stevenson, and Hare, and defended and worked out in more detail (...) recently by Blackburn, Gibbard, and others. So, my first aim (§1) in this paper is to pose this question about expressivism’s commitments in the theory of meaning and to characterize the answer I think is most natural, given the place expressivist accounts attempt to occupy metaethics. This involves appeal to an ideationalist account of meaning. Unfortunately for the expressivist, however, this answer generates a problem; it’s my second aim (§2) to articulate this problem. Then, my third aim (§3) is to argue that this problem doesn’t extend to the sort of account of the meaning of ethical claims that I favor, which is like expressivism in rejecting a representationalist order of semantic explanation but unlike expressivism in basing an alternative order of semantic explanation on inferential role rather than expressive function. (shrink)
In this paper I will be concerned with the question as to whether expressivist theories of meaning can coherently be combined with deflationist theories of truth. After outlining what I take expressivism to be and what I take deflationism about truth to be, I’ll explain why I don’t take the general version of this question to be very hard, and why the answer is ‘yes’. Having settled that, I’ll move on to what I take to be a more pressing (...) and interesting version of the question, arising from a prima facie tension between deflationism about truth and the motivations underlying expressivism for what I take to be two of its most promising applications: to indicative conditionals and epistemic modals. Here I’ll argue that the challenge is substantive, but that there is no conceptual obstacle to its being met, provided that one’s expressivism takes the right form. (shrink)
There has been a great deal of discussion in the recent philosophical literature of the relationship between the minimalist theory of truth and the expressivist metaethical theory. One group of philosophers contends that minimalism and expressivism are compatible, the other group contends that such theories are incompatible. Following Simon Blackburn (manuscript), I will call the former position ‘compatibilism’ and the latter position ‘incompatiblism.’ Even those compatibilist philosophers who hold that there is no conflict or tension between these two theories—minimalism (...) and expressivism—typically think that some revision of minimalism is required to accommodate expressivism. The claim that there is such an incompatibility, I will argue, is based on a misunderstanding of the historical roots of expressivism, the motivations behind the expressivist theory, and the essential commitments of expressivism. I will present an account of the expressivist theory that is clearly consistent with minimalism. (shrink)
According to the expressivist argument the choice to use biotechnologies to prevent the birth of individuals with specific disabilities is an expression of disvalue for existing people with this disability. The argument has stirred a lively debate and has recently received renewed attention. This article starts with presenting the expressivist argument and its core elements. It then goes on to present and examine the counter-arguments before it addresses some aspects that have gained surprisingly little attention. The analysis demonstrates that the (...) expressivist argument has a wide range of underpinnings and that counter-arguments tend to focus on only a few of these. It also reveals an important aspect that appears to have been ignored, i.e., that people do not select foetuses based on chromosomes or other biological traits, but based on characteristics of living persons with specific disabilities. This makes it more difficult to undermine the claim that negative selection of foetuses expresses a disvaluing of persons with such disabilities. It leaves the expressivist argument with a strong bite still. (shrink)
Mark Schroeder’s expressivist program has made substantial progress in providing a compositional semantics for normative terms. This paper argues that it risks achieving this semantic progress at the cost of abandoning a key theoretical motivation for embracing expressivism in the first place. The problem can be summarized as a dilemma. Either Schroeder must allow that there are cases in which agents are in disagreement with one another, or can make valid inferences, but that these disagreements or inferences are not (...) expressible in natural language; or his version of expressivism must abandon one of the key theoretical advantages expressivist theories seemed to possess over cognitivism, the ability to provide a very straightforward explanation of the action- and attitude-guiding role of normative judgments. (shrink)
Michael Ridge argues that metaethical expressivism can avoid its most worrisome problems by going ‘Ecumenical’. Ridge emphasizes that he aims to develop expressivism at the level of metasemantics rather than at the level of semantics. This is supposed to allow him to avoid a mentalist semantics of attitudes and instead offer an orthodox, truth-conditional or propositional semantics. However, I argue that Ridge's theory remains committed to mentalist semantics, and that his move to go metasemantic doesn't bring any clear (...) advantages to the debate between expressivism and its opponents. (shrink)
Philosophers should consider a hybrid meta-ethical theory that includes elements of both moral expressivism and moral error theory. Proponents of such an expressivist-error theory hold that all moral utterances are either expressions of attitudes or expressions of false beliefs. Such a hybrid theory has two advantages over pure expressivism, because hybrid theorists can offer a more plausible account of the moral utterances that seem to be used to express beliefs, and hybrid theorists can provide a simpler solution to (...) the Frege-Geach problem. The hybrid theory has three advantages over pure error theory, because hybrid theorists can offer a more plausible account of the moral utterances that seem to be used to express attitudes, hybrid theorists can more easily explain moral motivation, and hybrid theorists can avoid the implausible claim that all moral discourse is radically mistaken. Accordingly, such a hybrid theory should be more attractive than pure expressivism or pure error theory to philosophers who are skeptical about moral facts and truth. (shrink)
There is a wide-spread belief amongst theorists of mind and language. This is that in order to understand the relation between language, thought, and reality we need a theory of meaning and content, that is, a normative, formal science of meaning, which is an extension and theoretical deepening of folk ideas about meaning. This book argues that this is false, offering an alternative idea: The form of a theory that illuminates the relation of language, thought, and reality is a theory (...) of language agency. In a nutshell, the theory of language agency is a theory of competence, without being a theory of understanding or grasping rules. It is a theory of cognitive structure and language production. This theory distils all there is to say about language, thought, and reality. It does not supplement a theory of truth-conditions or semantic norms. It is not the explanation of how a speaker, qua cognitive system causally embedded in a larger reality, is able to use a language with some pre-existing semantic characterization. There is no pre-existing semantic characterization. Nevertheless, there are facts of meaning, as good as any other facts. The dissolution of the theory of meaning is accompanied by another disappearance. That is the disappearance of metaphysical questions in a number of domains. Once we complete the theory of language agency, then just as theoretical questions about meaning disappear, certain theoretical questions about existence disappear. Having provided a theory of the language agency for talk of meaning, fact, property, relation, and proposition, there is no question left over about what meanings, facts, properties, relations, and propositions are. There is no theory to be given of their natures. This is not because they have primitive irreducible natures. Rather it is because, in a sense to be clarified in this work, they lack natures. I call this approach to language agency Global Expressivism. That is because it generalizes some of the insights brought to the study of value-language by expressivists. However, it removes these insights from the clouding affects of attempting to make expressivism a semantic theory. Expressivism about value fails as a semantic theory of value talk. However, global expressivism can succeed as a theory of all talk because it is not a semantic theory but a theory of language agency, wherein the theory of meaning is replaced by a theory of talk about meaning. (shrink)
Contemporary expressivists typically deny that all true judgments must represent reality. Many instead adopt truth minimalism, according to which there is no substantive property of judgments in virtue of which they are true. In this article, I suggest that expressivists would be better suited to adopt truth pluralism, or the view that there is more than one substantive property of judgments in virtue of which judgments are true. My point is not that an expressivism that takes this form is (...) true, but that it more readily accommodates the motivations that typically lead expressivists to their view in the first place. (shrink)
This paper aims to investigate Allan Gibbard’s norm-expressivist account of normativity. In particular, the aim is to see whether Gibbard’s theory is able to account for the normativity of reason-claims. For this purpose, I first describe how I come to targeting Gibbard’s theory by setting out the main tenets of quasi-realism cum expressivism. After this, I provide a detailed interpretation of the relevant parts of Gibbard’s theory. I argue that the best reading of his account is the one that (...) takes normativity to be carried by a controlled, coherent, comprehensive set of norms. Finally, I present a potential obstacle to Gibbard’s approach: the regress problem. The idea is to examine the structure of the non-cognitive state expressed and find it inadequate due to the possibility of an infinite regress in the justification of the norms whose acceptance it contains. I then end the paper with some concluding remarks. (shrink)
This paper aims to develop the implications of logical expressivism for a theory of dialogue coherence. I proceed in three steps. Firstly, certain structural properties of cooperative dialogue are identified. Secondly, I describe a variant of the multi-agent natural deduction calculus that I introduced in Piwek (J Logic Lang Inf 16(4):403–421, 2007 ) and demonstrate how it accounts for the aforementioned structures. Thirdly, I examine how the aforementioned system can be used to formalise an expressivist account of logical vocabulary (...) that is inspired by Brandom (Making it explicit: reasoning, representing, and discursive commitment, 1994 ; Articulating reasons: an introduction to inferentialism, 2000 ). This account conceives of the logical vocabulary as a tool which allows speakers to describe the inferential practices which underlie their language use, i.e., it allows them to make those practices explicit. The rewards of this exercise are twofold: (1) We obtain a more precise account of logical expressivism which can be defended more effectively against the critique that such accounts lead to cultural relativism. (2) The formalised distinction between engaging in a practice and expressing it, opens the way for a revision of the theory of dialogue coherence. This revision eliminates the need for logically complex formulae to account for certain structural properties of cooperative dialogue. (shrink)
A central feature of ordinary moral thought is that moral judgment is mind-independent in the following sense: judging something to be morally wrong does not thereby make it morally wrong. To deny this would be to accept a form of subjectivism. Neil Sinclair (2008) makes a novel attempt to show how expressivism is simultaneously committed to (1) an understanding of moral judgments as expressions of attitudes and (2) the rejection of subjectivism. In this paper, I discuss Sinclair’s defense of (...) anti-subjectivist moral mind-independence on behalf of the expressivist, and I argue that the account does not fully succeed. An examination of why it does not is instructive, and it reveals a fundamental dilemma for the expressivist. I offer a suggestion for how the expressivist might respond to the dilemma and so uphold Sinclair’s defense. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to show that, pace (Field, 2009), MacFarlane’s assessment relativism and expressivism should be sharply distinguished. We do so by arguing that relativism and expressivism exemplify two very different approaches to context-dependence. Relativism, on the one hand, shares with other contemporary approaches a bottom–up, building block, model, while expressivism is part of a different tradition, one that might include Lewis’ epistemic contextualism and Frege’s content individuation, with which it shares an organic model (...) to deal with context-dependence. The building-block model and the organic model, and thus relativism and expressivism, are set apart with the aid of a particular test: only the building-block model is compatible with the idea that there might be analytically equivalent, and yet different, propositions. (shrink)
Ethical vagueness has garnered little attention. This is rather surprising since many philosophers have remarked that the science of ethics lacks the precision that other fields of inquiry have. Of the few philosophers who have discussed ethical vagueness the majority have focused on the implications of vagueness for moral realism. Because the relevance of ethical vagueness for other metaethical positions has been underexplored, my aim in this paper is to investigate the ramifications of ethical vagueness for expressivism. Ultimately, I (...) shall argue that expressivism does not have the resources to adequately account for ethical vagueness, while cognitivism does. This demonstrates an advantage that cognitivism holds over expressivism. (shrink)
Epistemic expressivists maintain, to a first approximation, that epistemic assertions express non-cognitive mental states, like endorsements, valuations, or pro-attitudes, rather than cognitive mental states such as beliefs. Proponents of epistemic expressivism include Chrisman, Gibbard, Field, Kappel, and Ridge, among others. In this paper, I argue for an alternative view to epistemic expressivism. The view I seek to advocate is inspired by hybrid expressivist theories about moral judgments, Copp Oxford studies in metaethics, 2009), Finlay, Strandberg ). According to these (...) hybrid views, moral judgments express semantically cognitive or representational states and pragmatically convey the speaker’s non-cognitive mental states via implicatures. I will argue that a particular version of this view can reasonably be extended to epistemic judgments and that it has several advantages over its expressivist and cognitivist competitors. In particular, I will try to show that there exist certain phenomena in the epistemic domain that seem to be best accounted for by expressivist theories of epistemic judgments. However, a version of hybrid expressivism that maintains that epistemic judgments convey the attributor’s non-cognitive mental states via generalized conversational implicatures is able to account for these phenomena just as well without running afoul of the main problems that have been identified for different versions of epistemic expressivism. (shrink)
Elizabeth Anderson’s “pluralist–expressivist” value theory, an alternative to the understanding of value and rationality underlying the “rational actor” model of human behavior, provides rich resources for addressing questions of environmental and animal ethics. It is particularly well-suited to help us think about the ethics of commodification, as I demonstrate in this critique of the pet trade. I argue that Anderson’s approach identifies the proper grounds for criticizing the commodification of animals, and directs our attention to the importance of maintaining social (...) practices and institutions that respect the social meanings of animals. Her theory alone, however, does not adequately address the role of the state in this project. Drawing on social contract theory to fill this gap, I conclude that the state’s role in regulating the pet trade should be limited to ensuring the welfare of animals in the stream of commerce, not prohibiting their mass marketing altogether. (shrink)
This paper explores in detail an argument for epistemic expressivism, what we call the Argument from Motivation. While the Argument from Motivation has sometimes been anticipated, it has never been set out in detail. The argument has three premises, roughly, that certain judgments expressed in attributions of knowledge are intrinsically motivating in a distinct way (P1); that motivation for action requires desire-like states or conative attitudes (HTM); and that the semantic content of knowledge attributions cannot be specified without reference (...) to the intrinsically motivating judgments that such attributions express (P2). We argue that these premises entail a version of ecumenical expressivism. Since the argument from motivation has not been explicitly stated before, there is no current discussion of the argument. In this paper we therefore consider and reject various objections that one might propose to the argument, including some that stem from the idea that knowledge is factive, or that knowledge involves evidence that rules out relevant alternatives. Other objections to (P1) specifically might be derived from cases of apparent lack of epistemic motivation considered in in Kvanvig (The value of knowledge and the pursuit of understanding, 2003) and Brown (Nous 42(2):167–189, 2008), as well as from general forms of externalism about epistemic motivation. We consider these and find them wanting. Finally, the paper offers some critical remarks about the prospect of denying (P2). (shrink)
Divine law theories of metaethics claim that moral rightness is grounded in God’s commands, wishes and so forth. Expressivist theories, by contrast, claim that to call something morally right is to express our own attitudes, not to report on God’s. Ostensibly, such views are incompatible. However, we shall argue that a rapprochement is possible and beneficial to both sides. Expressivists need to explain the difference between reporting and expressing an attitude, and to address the Frege-Geach problem. Divine law theorists need (...) to get past the Euthyphro dilemma, and to avoid moral externalism. This paper shows how a combined theory helps us to achieve this. (shrink)
In this paper, I present a dilemma for neo-expressivist accounts of self-consciousness. Such accounts are united by the idea that we can elucidate self-consciousness by appreciating the thought that some self-ascriptions both function as expressions and are truth-evaluable statements. The dilemma, I argue, is that the neo-expressivists either have to accept a circular element into their accounts or else the accounts lose their appeal. I recommend embracing circularity and argue that this is a case where circularity—far from being a failure—is (...) a precondition for a successful account. This is because “self-consciousness” and “expression” are mutually dependent concepts. (shrink)
In this paper I develop an objection to the version of expressivism found in Allan Gibbard’s book Thinking How to Live, and I suggest that the difficulty faced by Gibbard’s analysis is symptomatic of a problem for expressivism more generally. The central claim is that Gibbard’s expressivism is unable to account for certain normative judgments that arise in the process of evaluating cases of innocent mistakes. I begin by considering a type of innocent mistake that Gibbard’s view (...) is able to capture, one that can occur in situations in which our judgments of what it makes sense to do come apart from our judgments of what it makes sense to plan to do. Whether or not such mistakes are possible is a normative question, and I argue against Gibbard that we should adopt a normative stance that rules out such mistakes. This leads me to consider a second type of innocent mistake, one that can arise when an agent is constituted in such a way as to be incapable of recognizing the appropriate course of action. I argue here that our full normative assessment of the situation incorporates judgments that cannot be captured by Gibbard’s expressivism. I conclude by suggesting that any form of expressivism that shares Gibbard’s commitment to account for an intimate tie between normative judgments and action will face a similar problem. (shrink)
One important trend in the debate over expressivism and cognitivism is the emergence of ‘hybrid’ or ‘ecumenical’ theories. According to such theories, moral sentences express both beliefs, as cognitivism has it, and desire-like states, as expressivism has it. One may wonder, though, whether the hybrid move is as novel as its advocates seem to take it to be—or whether it simply leads us back to the conceptions of early expressivists, such as Charles Stevenson or Richard Hare. Michael Ridge (...) has recently argued that we ought not to see Hare as a hybrid expressivist because Hare’s approach allows for moral sentences that do not express any descriptive beliefs at all. Yet, Ridge’s reading has been challenged by John Eriksson, who even goes as far as to claim that modern hybrid expressivists should follow in Hare’s footsteps because it is Hare’s framework that actually provides a solution to the so-called ‘Frege-Geach problem’. In the present paper, I first want to show that we can defend Eriksson’s reading with regard to the official version of Hare’s theory. I will, secondly, argue that, in line with what we may take to be Ridge’s critical perspective on Hare, this official version faces serious difficulties, resulting from the possibility of unknown speaker standards. Thirdly, I will demonstrate that a modern reconstruction of Hare in terms of what I will refer to as ‘de dicto beliefs’, though in principle possible, will not allow us to solve the ‘Frege-Geach problem’. (shrink)