Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 725–740 | Cite as

A Primitive Solution to the Negation Problem

  • Derek ShillerEmail author


It has recently been alleged that expressivism cannot account for the obvious fact that normative sentences and their negations express inconsistent kinds of attitudes. I explain how the expressivist can respond to this objection. I offer an account of attitudinal inconsistency that takes it to be a combination of descriptive and normative relations. The account I offer to explain these relations relies on a combination of functionalism about normative judgments and expressivism about the norms governing them. It holds that the inconsistency of normative judgments is primitive. One potential problem for this view is that the large number of normative primitives that the expressivist will allegedly need to accept will render the view grossly unparsimonious. In defending this thesis, I suggest that it is a mistake to hold the lack of normative parsimony of expressivism against its core psychological claims.


Negation problem Inconsistency Expressivism Parsimony 



Thanks to Paul Audi, Jerry Cederblom, Laura Grams, Halla Kim, William Melanson, Andrew Newman, Jack Woods, and several anonymous referees for comments and discussion of earlier versions of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy Department, 205 Arts and Science HallUniversity of Nebraska at OmahaOmahaUSA

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