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Can expressivism have it all?

  • Terence CuneoEmail author
Article
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Abstract

Quasi-realist expressivists (or simply “expressivists”) set themselves the task of developing a metaethical theory that at once captures what they call the “realist-sounding” elements of ordinary moral thought and discourse but is also distinctively antirealist. Its critics have long suspected that the position cannot have what it wants. In this essay, I develop this suspicion. I do so by distinguishing two paradigmatic versions of the view—what I call Thin and Thick expressivism respectively. I contend that there is a metaethical datum regarding our epistemic achievements in the moral domain that presents challenges for each variety of expressivism. Thin expressivism opts not to accommodate and explain this datum but I contend that its rationale for not doing so rests on a suspect methodology. Thick expressivism looks as if it must accommodate and explain this datum but I argue that it is poorly situated to do so. I conclude that we have reason to believe that paradigmatic expressivism cannot have all that it wants.

Keywords

Expressivism Realism Epistemic achievements Methodology 

Notes

Acknowledgements

My thanks to Arash Abizadeh, Janina Cuneo, Derek Baker, John Bengson, Louis deRosset, Jamie Dreier, Billy Dunaway, David Plunkett, Mike Ridge, Russ Shafer-Landau, Mark van Roojen, the UVM Ethics Group, and an audience at the American Philosophical Association for their comments on ancestors of this essay. A special thanks to an anonymous referee for this journal who, while deeply unsympathetic with this essay’s main argument, recommended its publication.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA

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