Troubles with Horgan and Timmons' nondescriptivist cognitivism

Grazer Philosophische Studien 63 (1):235-255 (2002)
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Emotivist, or non-descriptivist metaethical theories hold that value-statements do not function by describing special value-facts, but are the mere expressions of naturalistically describable motivational states of (valuing) agents. Non-descriptivism has typically been combined with the claim that value-statements are non-cognitive: they are not the manifestations of genuine belief states. However, all the linguistic, logical and phenomenological evidence indicates that value-statements are cognitive. Non-descriptivism then has a problem. Horgan and Timmons propose to solve it by boldly combining a non-descriptivist thesis about value with the claim that value-judgements are after all cognitive. Although possessing many attractive features, I argue that their framework fails to deliver the promised results; it suffers from a certain internal incoherence about the concept of content and mis-characterizes the descriptive/non-descriptive content distinction required by nondescriptivism



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Stephen Barker
Nottingham University

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