Michael A. Smith

Abstract

The strength of the motivation it is rational to have in the light of an evaluative judgement covaries independently with both certitude and importance in ways which, Smith argues, his own cognitivist theory of evaluative judgement is well placed to explain. Not so for noncognitivism which identifies evaluations with desires (very broadly construed). Desires can vary in strength both relative to each other and over time: this does not seem like enough structure to accommodate all three structural features that evaluative judgements have. Suppose more structure is imported by saying that valuing something is a matter of desiring to desire it. We might then identify certitude with the strength of the second order desire and importance with the strength of the desired first-order desire. But this assignment seems arbitrary. Why is it superior to the converse assignment? There seems to be no reason. Moreover this picture contradicts commonsense. For strong second-order desires are apt always to defeat weak second-order desires whatever the relative strength of the desired desires (desired desires as such are just intentional objects and pull no motivational weight). Whereas commonsense informs us that, where our motivation is concerned, sometimes great confidence of minor importance trumps faint confidence of great importance and sometimes faint confidence of great importance trumps great confidence of minor importance. Noncognitivism is thus, Smith concludes, ill-suited to capture both the structure evaluative judgements enjoy and the motivational significance of this structure.

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