Disagreement and inconsistency: a problem for orthodox expressivism

Synthese 200 (5):1-17 (2022)
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What makes two sentences inconsistent? Expressivists understand the meaning of a sentence in terms of the mental state it expresses. In order to explain the inconsistency between two sentences, the expressivist must appeal to some inconsistency feature of the mental states expressed. A simple explanation is that two sentences, e.g., “murder is wrong” and “murder is not wrong” are inconsistent by virtue of expressing mental states that disagree. Schroeder argues that the expressivist lacks a plausible explanation of the disagreement. Baker & Woods argue that Schroeder is wrong. With these authors, I agree that expressivists have an explanation of disagreement, but this does not adequately explain why two sentences are inconsistent. The reason is that two intuitively inconsistent sentences do not necessarily express mental states that disagree. Moreover, assuming that the expressivist gives a structurally identical explanation for moral and non-moral language, the problem generalizes to non-moral language. It is also argued that the problem extends to thought. How expressivists can and should conceive of inconsistency thus remains a challenge.



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John Eriksson
University of Gothenburg

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Knowledge and Its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Philosophy 76 (297):460-464.
Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 64 (1):200-201.
Knowledge and Its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2005 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 70 (2):452-458.
Impassioned Belief.Michael Ridge - 2014 - New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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