Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 265–274

Noncognitivism and Wishfulness

  • James Lenman

DOI: 10.1023/A:1026037820411

Cite this article as:
Lenman, J. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice (2003) 6: 265. doi:10.1023/A:1026037820411


It has recently been argued by Cian Dorr that if noncognitivism is true, inferences to factual conclusions from premises at least one of which is moral must be condemned as irrational. For, given a noncognitivist understanding of what it is to accept such premises, such reasoning would be wishful thinking: irrationally revising our views about the world to make them cohere with our desires and feelings. This he takes to be a reductio of noncognitivism. I argue that no compelling case to this effect has been made out. I show how, in many cases, non-cognitivists can make excellent sense of the rational legitimacy of such arguments. In cases where they plausibly cannot do so, moreover, this legitimacy is highly doubtful for independently plausible reasons and should be doubted even by cognitivists.

Cian Dorrirrationalitymetaethicsnoncognitivismnormative logicwishful thinking

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Lenman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowScotland, UK