Metanormative Contextualism and Normative Uncertainty

Mind 126 (501):155-193 (2017)
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We offer a new argument in favour of metanormative contextualism, the thesis that the semantic value of a normative ‘ought’ claim of the form ‘ S ought to Φ’ depends on the value of one or more parameters whose values vary in a way that is determined by the context of utterance. The debate over this contextualist thesis has centred on cases that involve ‘ought’ claims made in the face of uncertainty regarding certain descriptive facts. Contextualists, relativists, and invariantists all have plausible ways of explaining these cases, and one could reasonably judge the debate between these views to be a stalemate. We argue that this stalemate can be broken by shifting focus to a case that involves normative uncertainty rather than descriptive uncertainty. While relativist and invariantist rivals of contextualism can give plausible accounts of the descriptive uncertainty cases, only contextualism can provide a plausible account of the normative uncertainty case.

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Author Profiles

Alex Worsnip
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
John Pittard
Yale University

Citations of this work

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