In the last section, we saw how the determination view proposes to give flesh to the idea that thick concepts are irreducibly thick. Relying on an intuitive appeal to the relation between being red and being colored, the determination view proposed that we see the relation between the thick and the thin as one of determinate to determinable. If they are correct, then we have a plausible way of spelling out how thick concepts are inherently evaluative while also being irreducible—they are evaluative as a matter of being good (or bad) in a particular way, where the specification is not spelt out in terms of logically prior nonevaluative criteria in virtue of which something is made good (or bad) in that particular way. What I want to do in this section is show that the determination view has not done enough to prove that evaluative concepts are well understood in terms of the determination relation; further, I will argue that the only available way to answer my challenge is unworkable for them in principle.
The contention I am making starts with the thought that there being some intuitive sense to the idea that evaluative concepts are an instance of the determination relation does not just entail that evaluative concepts in fact are such an instance. First, consider the three truisms Harcourt and Thomas (2013: 25-26) pull from Funkhouser’s (2006: 548-549):
The determination relation holds between pairs of concepts. So, BRUTAL is a determinable relative to THUGGISH but a determinate relative to BAD.Footnote 12
Any determinate concept is a specification of a determinable concept, where that specification is distinct from the genus-species model.
Any determinate concept entails all the determinable concepts it falls under. So, tokening THUGGISH entails BRUTAL and BAD.
At the stage in which Harcourt and Thomas introduce these truisms, there is no argument for thinking that the determination relation is in fact the correct view of evaluative concept relations. The clencher here is (2)—what reason do we have for supposing the specification relation between thin and thick is distinct from the specification adverted to by the species-genus model? The species-genus model, at least if we are thinking about (1) and (3) is at least as initially intuitive as the determination view—it is not, so I say, a completely crazy idea. But if that is right, then we need some reason, in addition to a few initially plausible intuitions about how the evaluative case can preserve some (cherry-picked) truisms,Footnote 13 to think that evaluative concepts are an instance of the determination relation—what we need is some way to prove that the evaluative are in fact an instance of the determination relation.
Of course, Harcourt and Thomas (2013: 29-36) do try to prove such a thing by targeting Elstein and Hurka’s (2009) view, which is essentially a species-genus model of evaluative specification. Recall Harcourt and Thomas’ commitment to nonevaluative shapelessness; in their reply to Elstein and Hurka, Harcourt and Thomas attempt to leverage shapelessness against them. The thought seems to be that, if shapelessness is true, then it seems like some view along the lines of the determination view is correct since there is just no nonevaluative specifications we could make on GOOD in order to individuate thick concepts. In other words, if shapelessness is right, according to the determination view, then the (evaluative reductionist) genus-species model must be false. What more could you want?
There are two general points to make to this objection. The first is that shapelessness, all on its own, does not guarantee the falsity of the genus-species model. In principle, the evaluative reductionist can offer the following analysis of COURAGE which respects shapelessness:
x is the concept, COURAGE, [iff] x is of nonevaluative sort T (specified) and x has some components (unspecified) in virtue of being of nonevaluative sort T and is good in virtue of having those components where there is no nonevaluative shape to those components across a range of instances of the concept’s correct application.Footnote 14
This analysis would respect the genus-species model of reduction as well as respect shapelessness by maintaining that every occurrence of COURAGE is of a general nonevaluative sort—say, the nonevaluative sort of requiring action in light of danger and (or?) fear—while also making it a matter of (perhaps extreme) context dependence whether the particular components in question belong to the specified nonevaluative sort. If the evaluative reductionist can make adequate sense of shapelessness, then the mere fact that evaluative concepts seem intuitively to fit (1) and (3) would do nothing for the determination view because they fit the genus-species model just as well (depending, anyway, on your prior metaethical commitments). If that is right, then the additional argument that the evaluative are best made sense of in terms of the determination relation is needed, and defenders of the determination view have not done this.
The second point to make here is that, even if shapelessness did ultimately decide matters in favor of the antireductionist, it would still not be obvious that the determination relation is the right answer to give. This is because making sense of the shapelessness hypothesis does not rely on the evaluative being an instance of the determination relation. To see this, consider Harcourt and Thomas’ (2013: 31) defense of the disentanglability argument, the crux of which can be captured by this quote: “[W]hat we have in judgments of courage here is not evidence for the priority of the thin, but one point of entry into an inescapable holism of the thick.” Harcourt and Thomas intend for this line about the holism of the thin to support the determination relation (and hence (2)); indeed, making adequate sense of the holism of the thick can be done by positing the determination view since, plausibly, the determination relation will make the thick prior to the thin. But, one could also make sense of the holism of the thick by positing a no-priority view according to which neither the thick nor the thin are conceptually prior; such a view could make sense of holism by positing that, in any given application of an evaluative concept, there will be other evaluative concepts in play grounding the application of the concept to an individual (say, by predicating courageousness to a person).Footnote 15 But, if that is right, then nonevaluative shapelessness does not clench the determination view as the only view able to fill in the outlines of irreducible thickness. Even granting the shapelessness line clenches the case for irreducible thickness, then, we need more argument for thinking irreducible thickness should be spelt out as the determination view.
Thus, the determination view, just in virtue of showing the evaluative can be made sense of in terms of determination, does not thereby justify the claim that it is an instance of the determination relation; therefore, the determination view has not justified adherence to the traditional view of evaluation and has therefore not justified its preferred way of thinking about evaluative concept relations (as specification via determination). What the determination view must do is show how the evaluative case fits a general analysis of the determination relation. If it can do this, then it will have done enough to show that the thick, if irreducible, are an instance of the determination relation.Footnote 16
The Determination Relation and Color
The objection to the determination view so far can be summed up as follows: Even supposing Harcourt and Thomas have done enough to show that we should take the determination view seriously, they have not yet shown that the determination view is correct. The next step is to try and provide the missing justification for the determination relation. One obvious way they can prove their view is the correct one is to show how the evaluative case fits with a general analysis of the determination relation (this is even suggested by (2)). The aim of the next two subsections is to show that the determination view cannot be correct—there is no plausible story to tell for determination relation. I will show this by explicating Funkhouser’s (2006, 2014) treatment of the determination relation, and then offer a counterexample to the determination view in light of this analysis.
Funkhouser’s analysis of the determination relation can be given in brief form:
(D) Some B determines some A iff:
A and B have the same determination dimensions,
B has the absolute non-determinable necessities of A, and
the range of determination dimension values for B is a proper subset of the range of determination dimension values for A.Footnote 17
Where ‘determination dimensions’ are the features which specify redness (etc.), and ‘absolute non-determinable necessities’ are those features redness and coloredness must have in order to be an instance of the kind in question, but nevertheless do not play a part in determination. Crucially, the absolute non-determinable necessities do not vary along with the determination dimensions.
It seems clear to me this analysis makes good sense of how being red (or whatever) relates to being colored. Suppose that, for something to be red, that thing must have a certain range of values with respect to brightness, saturation, and hue which jointly constitute the determination dimensions of redness (not to mention any number of the other various color kinds) and coloredness; thus, condition (1) is satisfied. Condition (2) is also satisfied since, it seems, neither redness nor coloredness have any non-determinable necessities. Finally, condition (3) is met in virtue of the determination dimension values for redness being a proper subset of the determination dimension values for being colored since it is the case that the determination dimension values for colored also contain the determination dimension values for green, yellow, orange, and so on. Importantly, since the red-color case is a canonical example of the determination relation, I think we have good reason to suppose Funkhouser’s analysis is correct.Footnote 18
Determination and Evaluative Concepts
The discussion above shows us (D) is a good analysis of the determination relation and therefore provides hope for the determination view to secure (2). It should therefore be useful for seeing whether the determination view can provide the missing justification I claim they need. My contention is that the only likely way for the determination view to answer my challenge is via appeal to purely evaluative determination dimensions since to appeal to nonevaluative determination dimensions would be to make the extension of thick evaluative concepts a matter of nonevaluative specificity—a clear violation of shapelessness and the thesis of irreducible thickness.
So, can the determination view meet my challenge with appeal to purely evaluative determination dimensions? To get a start, considerPekka Väyrynen's (Unpublished) suggestion that we look to an evaluative concept’s flavor, valence, and strength. Flavor refers the sort of evaluative concept it is; i.e., when we consider what flavor a concept has, we are asking whether it is a moral evaluative concept, a prudential evaluative concept, or something along these lines. Valence refers, unsurprisingly, to whether a given evaluative concept is positive or negative. Finally, strength refers to the kind of reasons entailed by an evaluative concept. We might think of these reasons being divided into contributory reasons and overall reasons—only the latter being decisive reasons for action. In addition to these three dimensions, I propose to add two more. The first is focus; when we inquire about the focus of a given evaluative concept, we are asking whether the concept in question is relational-focused or individual-focused. An example of the former kind would be GENEROUS while an example of the latter kind would be TEMPERATE. The second addition is motivation. The motivation dimension will determine whether the concept in question picks out an internal or consequential motivation; for example, one might think TEMPERATE picks out a trait or property motivated by the consequences it brings about while HONEST picks out a trait or property motivated internally.
Graham Oddie (2005: 162) can be construed as suggesting that we include the criterion of intensity, which would contain values ranging from ‘mild’ to ‘extreme’, and which would refer to the amount of (dis)value ascribed by an appropriate application of a thick concept.Footnote 19 However, the amount of (dis)value denoted by the application of a thick concept is likely to be highly context responsive. Since we are interested in individuating concept types (rather than tokens), I take it the context responsiveness of intensity would make it basically useless for individuating concepts and we should therefore not include it in the determination dimensions for evaluative concepts.
With the exception of intensity, then, I think the above dimensions are initially appealing and therefore give the determination view some initial hope of meeting my challenge. To see how, consider the structure of determinates and determinables, starting at what I will assume is the highest level of abstraction. So, PRO, we might think, is the highest-level determinable we have as an evaluative concept.Footnote 20 A determinate of PRO would be GOOD (in addition to PRUDENT and PLEASING). The determination dimensions of GOOD would be ‘moral’, ‘positive’, and be neutral with respect to strength, focus, and motivation. A determinate of GOOD would be GENEROUS and would have the following dimensions: ‘moral’, ‘positive’, ‘contributory’, ‘relational’, and ‘internal’. Further, we can suppose the non-determinable necessity each evaluative concept has is something like APPLIES TO CERTAIN NONEVALUTIVE CIRCUMSTANCES.Footnote 21 So, intuitively, there seems to be a way to fill out the analysis in purely evaluative terms.Footnote 22
Despite its initial appeal, however, I think this option fails to distinguish thick concepts we should maintain are in fact distinct. Looking back at the example, it appears that many determinates of GOOD would fall along the same subset of determination dimension values. To see the problem with this, consider the determination dimensions for COURAGE and HONEST. The determination dimensions for COURAGE would be ‘moral’, ‘positive’, ‘contributory’, neutral with respect to ‘focus’, and ‘internal’. HONEST has exactly the same determination dimensions as COURAGE. The difficulty here is that our concepts, HONEST and COURAGE, when applied to various situations, do not always overlap. It is easy enough to identify situations in which COURAGE is the appropriate concept to apply, but HONEST is not—say, when a solider runs into battle despite fear for life and limb. Conversely, we can describe situations in which HONEST is the appropriate concept to apply but COURAGE is not; for example, we might think one should be honest to tourists when they ask for directions, but we should not think such an action takes courage. Here, it seems, we have a clear counterexample to the determination view spelled out in this way.
The issue here is not so much that defenders of the determination view cannot fill in their view such that it coheres with (D); this much, it seems clear, they certainly can do. The issue, rather, is that the determination view can only get this result at the expense of collapsing obviously disparate evaluative concepts into the same concept. Since, on the determination view, being an evaluative concept just is to possess certain “values” for flavor, valence, strength, focus, and motivation, concepts that have the same values for these determination dimensions in fact are the very same concept; thus, as the counterexample shows, HONEST and COURAGE turn out to be the same concept. Since that is obviously not the case, I conclude that, even if the determination view does fill in the general analysis in some prima facie plausible way, it generates what is to my mind a reductio for the determination view. There is, it seems, not enough structure. Since this is the only option available, I conclude that the determination view is false.
There is a potential hiccup at this point, however. A defender of the determination view could try and salvage it qua a theory amenable to irreducible thickness by proposing there are in fact determination dimension values for a given thick concept, and these determination dimensions are not at odds with shapelessness. This is so because the determination dimension values are themselves thick evaluations.Footnote 23 The suggestion, as best I can tell, is meant to salvage the determination relation between GOOD and the thick concepts we intuitively appeal to (e.g., COURAGE, JUSTICE, GENEROSITY) by adding a layer of complexity I claim the determination view does not have.
My worries with this suggestion are connected. The first worry is that I am not totally sure how this gets spelt out in a way that seems plausible and friendly the determination view’s main tenets. This uncertainty derives from a deeper worry: This fix leaves the determination relation with respect to evaluative concepts unmotivated. To address the deeper worry first, it seems to me that, whatever the thick determination dimensions are, they would themselves need to be either determinates of GOOD or not. If they are, then they cannot be determination dimensions, since this would violate the structure of the determination relation. To see the problem, recall that what it is to be an evaluative concept, on the determination view, just is to satisfy certain values for a range of determination dimensions. But, then, the determination dimensions are not themselves evaluative concepts since satisfying any one dimension (which, perhaps, determination dimensions trivially do) does not confer the status of being an evaluative concept. If that is right, however, we would have to give a different analysis of the essences of those thick evaluations serving as determination dimensions—what it is to be those thick evaluative concepts would be something different from what it is to be a thick evaluative concept that has its evaluative nature in virtue of being a determinate.
So, let us suppose that thick evaluative determination dimensions are not themselves determinates of GOOD and can therefore receive a separate analysis of what it is to be an evaluative concept; once a defender of irreducible thickness admits this is possible, however, then she has picked out another way in which evaluative concepts necessarily encode evaluation. This is so because, according to the determination view, being a determinate of GOOD is constitutive of what it is for a given concept to be evaluative.Footnote 24 If the thick determination dimensions are outside of the determination relation, then there must be some other way in which evaluative concepts can be evaluative. But once we have picked out a different way the thick are essentially evaluative—say, by being evaluative in their own right—then positing the determination relation would be unmotivated. I think this is the root of the problem for why there seems to be no plausible and friendly way to spell out the suggestion of a couple paragraphs back. So, it seems, this will not do as a fix for the determination view. My conclusion about the falsity of the determination view stands.Footnote 25