Realist-expressivism and the fundamental role of normative belief
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The goal of this paper is to show that a cognitivist–externalist view about moral judgment is compatible with a key intuition that motivates non-cognitivist expressivism. This is the intuition that normative judgments have a close connection to action that ordinary “descriptive factual beliefs” do not have, or, as James Dreier has suggested, that part of the fundamental role of normative judgment is to motivate. One might think that cognitivist–externalist positions about normative judgment are committed to viewing normative judgments as having the same role in our psychology as ordinary descriptive factual beliefs. This paper argues to the contrary. It restricts attention to moral judgments. It develops an account of moral belief according to which, first, moral beliefs are representational cognitive states that have the same basic nature as ordinary descriptive factual beliefs. Yet, second, their fundamental role is such that, when all goes well, moral beliefs mesh with our moral policies to motivate action. The paper draws on a society-centered account of the grounding of morality, a distinction between “basic” and “internal” ways of thinking of the moral properties, and a hybrid account of the “meaning” of moral predicates, called “realist-expressivism.”
KeywordsMeta-ethics Realist-expressivism Normative belief The role of normative belief Cognitivism Non-cognitivism Moral judgment internalism Moral judgment externalism
Some of the ideas developed in this essay were presented to the Tenth Symposium on Ethics and Political Philosophy, Center for Ethics and Philosophy of Mind, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March, 2014, to the Rio-2015 Metaethics Conference, January, 2015 and to the Departments of Philosophy at York University and the University of Calgary in December, 2014 and 2015, respectively. I am grateful to members of these audiences for helpful discussion and especially to Andrew Alwood, Ali Kazmi, Adam Sennet and Teemu Toppinen for their detailed comments. In addition, I would like to thank Christian Coons, Simon Kirchin, Nicholas Laskowski, David McNaughton, Wilson Mendonca, Claudia Passos, Peter Railton, Fabio Shecaira, Paul Teller, Julia Telles de Menezes, two anonymous referees, and the members of the Davis discussion group in ethics and related subjects.
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