, Volume 154, Issue 3, pp 435-441
Date: 12 May 2011

Judith Jarvis Thomson’s Normativity

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Thomson’s (2008) Normativity is a careful, rigorous account of the meanings of basic normative terms like good, virtue, correct, ought, should, and must. Along the way Thomson refutes almost everything other philosophers have said about these topics. It is a very important book.

This book discusses meta-ethics. She also plans a companion work of normative theory.

Since I am going first in this symposium, I am mainly going to summarize this excellent book. At the end, I will try to indicate briefly why I think it refutes the sort of theory I and others have previously favored.


Thomson begins by discussing evaluations using the word good. She notes as many others have that good is always used as an attributive adjective. Something may be a good K or good in a certain respect, but nothing is good period.

Thomson goes on to argue this means that emotivism, expressivism, prescriptivism and related accounts of the meaning of good cannot be generally correct. Nor does it make sense to suppos ...