Contested terms and philosophical debates
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There are two standard theoretical responses to putative errors in ordinary thinking about some given target property: eliminativism or revisionism. Roughly, eliminativism is the denial that the target property exists, and revisionism is the view that the property exists, but that people tend to have false beliefs about it. Recently, Shaun Nichols has proposed a third option: discretionism. Discretionism is the idea that some terms have multiple reference conventions, so that it may be true to say with eliminativists that the property does not exist, and true to say with revisionists (and others) that the property does exist. This article explores the viability of discretionism, and argues that it faces serious difficulties. Even if the difficulties faced by discretionism can be overcome, it is unclear that discretionism secures anything beyond what is already available to standard revisionist views. The article concludes with some reflections about Nichols’ account of the bare retributive norm.
KeywordsMetaphilosophy Eliminativism Revisionism Free will Moral responsibility Retribution
Thanks to Heather Battaly, Rebecca Mason, Shaun Nichols, Jay Odenbaugh, and Daniel Speak for feedback on this paper, or discussion of ideas in it. Thanks, too, to audience members at the 2015 Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association.
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