This is an opinionated overview of the Frege-Geachproblem, in both its historical and contemporary guises. Covers Higher-order Attitude approaches, Tree-tying, Gibbard-style solutions, and Schroeder's recent A-type expressivist solution.
The aim of this dissertation is to provide support for the following claim: if Hanks’ theory of propositions as act-types is correct, then there exists a plausible extension of this theory that solves the Frege-Geachproblem for normative propositions. I assume that Hanks’ theory is correct, and in this framework develop an account of semantic expressivism that addresses three versions of the Frege-Geachproblem: the embedding, inference and negation problems. First, I examine in detail (...) one existing attempt to support the claim, due to Hom and Schwartz. I argue that their extension is not plausible for two reasons: it does not satisfy a key expressivist constraint, and it encounters a problem with interrogatives. Then I argue that even if their extension were plausible, it would not solve the embedding problem for conditionals, for two reasons: it does not place suitable constraints on applications of force-indicators, and it encounters a problem with mixed descriptive-normative conditionals. Second, I give a new extension of Hanks’ theory for atomic normative sentences, and argue that it is plausible. Then I extend it further by defining force-indicators that are generalizations of assertion and of normative endorsement (and of denial and anti-endorsement) and by defining logical relations that apply uniformly to as- sertive and normative propositions. I argue that this extension provides a neutral logical framework within which the embedding, inference and negation problems for normative propositions can be more effectively addressed. (shrink)
This paper makes explicit the way in which many theorists of the epistemology of uncertainty, or formal epistemologists, are committed to a version of noncognitivism—one about thoughts that something is likely. It does so by drawing an analogy with metaethical noncognitivism. I explore the degree to which the motivations for both views are similar and how both views have to grapple with the Frege‐GeachProblem about complex thoughts. The major upshot of recognizing this noncognitivism is that it (...) presents challenges and opportunities not only in the philosophy of mind and language but also in epistemology itself. I present some examples where attention to the implicit noncognitivism in formal epistemology has affected or should affect epistemological theory. And I suggest that it is likely that further examples of this sort will arise. (shrink)
Mark Eli Kalderon has argued for a fictionalist variant of non-cognitivism. On his view, what the Frege–Geachproblem shows is that standard non-cognitivism proceeds uncritically from claims about use to claims about meaning; if non-cognitivism's claims were solely about use it would be on safe ground as far as the Frege–Geachproblem is concerned. I argue that Kalderon's diagnosis is mistaken: the problem concerns the non-cognitivist's account of the use of moral sentences too.
I resolve the major challenge to an Expressivist theory of the meaning of normative discourse: the Frege–GeachProblem. Drawing on considerations from the semantics of directive language (e.g., imperatives), I argue that, although certain forms of Expressivism (like Gibbard’s) do run into at least one version of the Problem, it is reasonably clear that there is a version of Expressivism that does not.
Blackburn has outlined a formal account for moral expressivism, and we argued that the moral Frege-Geachproblem can be solved formally by appending two rules for the boo-operator which are missing from his account. We then extended Blackburn’s formal account to generate a similar solution to the problem in modal context and showed that the validity of the modal argument can be preserved too in modal expressivism. However, the higher-order element endorsed by Blackburn does not seem (...) necessary for solving the Frege-Geachproblem. Nor is his extension from moral expressivism to modal expressivism tenable, since the latter violates its own ontological constraint. A general moral is drawn on the basis on three observations made in evaluating Blackburn’s expressivism. (shrink)
According to the established understanding of the Frege-Geachproblem, it is a challenge exclusively for metaethical expressivism. In this paper, I argue that it is much wider in scope: The problem applies generally to views according to which moral sentences express moral judgments entailing that one is for or against something, irrespective of what mental states the judgments consist in. In particular, it applies to motivational internalism about moral judgments. Most noteworthy, it applies to cognitivist internalism (...) according to which moral judgments consist in motivating beliefs. Hence, in order for a metaethical view to evade the Frege-Geachproblem, it should avoid stating that moral judgments are motivating. (shrink)
The problem of the unity of the proposition asks what binds together the constituents of a proposition into a fully formed proposition that provides truth conditions for the assertoric sentence that expresses it, rather than merely a set of objects. Hanks’ solution is to reject the traditional distinction between content and force. If his theory is successful, then there is a plausible extension of it that readily solves the Frege–Geachproblem for normative propositions. Unfortunately Hanks’ theory (...) isn’t successful, but it does point to significant connections between expressivism, unity, and embedding. (shrink)
Despite its many advantages as a metaethical theory, moral expressivism faces difficulties as a semantic theory of the meaning of moral claims, an issue underscored by the notorious Frege-Geachproblem. I consider a distinct metaethical view, inferentialism, which like expressivism rejects a representational account of meaning, but unlike expressivism explains meaning in terms of inferential role instead of expressive function. Drawing on Michael Williams’ recent work on inferential theories of meaning, I argue that an appropriate understanding of (...) the pragmatic role of moral discourse—the facilitation of coordinated social behavior—suggests the kind of inferences we should expect terms with this function to license. I offer a sketch of the inferential roles the moral ‘ought’ plays, and argue that if we accept that the relevant inferential roles are meaning-constitutive, we will be in a position to solve the Frege-Geachproblem. Such an inferentialist solution has advantages over those forwarded by expressivists such as Blackburn and Gibbard. First, it offers a more straightforward explanation of the meaning of moral terms. It also gives simple answers to at least two semantic worries that have vexed contemporary expressivists—the “problem of permissions” and the commitment to “mentalism”, both of which I argue are problems that don’t get traction with an inferentialist approach. I conclude by considering ways in which this approach can be expanded into a more robust semantic account. (shrink)
In the 1960s, Peter Geach and John Searle independently posed an important objection to the wide class of 'noncognitivist' metaethical views that had at that time been dominant and widely defended for a quarter of a century. The problems raised by that objection have come to be known in the literature as the Frege-GeachProblem, because of Geach's attribution of the objection to Frege's distinction between content and assertoric force, and the problem has (...) since occupied a great deal of the attention both of defenders of broadly noncognitivist views, and of their critics. In this article I explain Geach and Searle's historical objections, and put the subsequent discussion into dialectical context, paying some attention to the developments along the way and how they have enhanced our overall understanding of the problem. The article covers a lot of territory, so we will only be able to see the highlights, along the way. For further reading, see the Works Cited. (shrink)
[full article, abstract in English; only abstract in Lithuanian] This paper proposes a new pragmatic interpretation of the Frege–Geachproblem and presents a possible solution using a model of ascriptive legal language. The first section includes the definition of the Frege–Geachproblem. In the second section, I analyze the content of Geach’s critical argument against prescriptivism in ethics. I discuss what Geach means by ascriptivism, why he mixes it with prescriptivism, and why (...) a particular article by Herbert Hart became the subject of criticism by Geach. The third section proposes a possible solution to the Frege–Geachproblem based on the explication of the assertoric force of ascriptive legal utterances and the performativity of legal language. (shrink)
Several philosophers have recently appealed to predication in developing their theories of cognitive representation and propositions. One central point of difference between them is whether they take predication to be forceful or neutral and whether they take the most basic cognitive representational act to be judging or entertaining. Both views are supported by powerful reasons and both face problems. Many think that predication must be forceful if it is to explain representation. However, the standard ways of implementing the idea give (...) rise to the Frege-Geachproblem. Others think that predication must be neutral, if we’re to avoid the Frege-Geachproblem. However, it looks like nothing neutral can explain representation. In this paper I present a third view, one which respects the powerful reasons while avoiding the problems. On this view predication is forceful and can thus explain representation, but the idea is implemented in a novel way, avoiding the Frege-Geachproblem. The key is to make sense of the notion of grasping a proposition as an objectual act where the object is a proposition. (shrink)
The Frege‐Geachproblem is probably the most serious worry for the prospects of any kind of metaethical expressivism. In a recent article, Ridge suggests that a new version of expressivism, a view he calls ecumenical expressivism, can avoid the Frege‐Geachproblem.1 In contrast to pure expressivism, ecumenical expressivism is the view that moral utterances function to express not only desire‐like states of mind but also beliefs with propositional content. Whereas pure expressivists’ solutions to the (...)Frege‐Geachproblem usually have rested on some kind of “logic of attitudes,” Ridge argues that it is the expressed belief in the ecumenical machinery that holds the key. Although Ridge’s ecumenical expressivism is promising, this essay argues that his solution is flawed. However, this does not mean that every form of ecumenical expressivism is a failure. Ridge briefly contrasts his view with the kind of view Hare advanced but argues that Hare cannot make use of the ecumenical machinery.2 I argue that this is incorrect. Not only is an ecumenical reading of Hare very plausible and something that establishes him as an important forerunner of today’s ecumenical trend in metaethics, but, more important, it offers guidance where Ridge goes wrong. It solves the Frege‐Geachproblem in a way that meets the criticism of more standard solutions head‐on, and it seems to be able to handle the most pressing problems for ecumenical theories. The ecumenical theory that emerges is therefore powerful enough to establish itself as one of the most (if not the most) plausible form of ecumenism on the market. The first part of this article is largely concerned with advancing an ecumenical reading of Hare’s The Language of Morals and the kind of solution it offers in response to the Frege‐Geachproblem. Some of the problems such a reading encounters will be addressed as we outline the theory. The most serious worries, however, are addressed in the final part of the essay. (shrink)
A background assumption of much of 20th century and recent metaethics and moral psychology is that moral judgements either express beliefs rather than desire-like attitudes or express desire-like attitudes rather than beliefs. In a recent series of papers and а monograph, Michael Ridge seeks to reject this assumption, and thereby to steer the focus of metaethical debate away from the Frege-Geachproblem. In particular, Ridge claims that we can formulate “ecumenical” views on which moral judgements express both (...) beliefs and desire-like attitudes, and that his own favoured metaethical position – Ecumenical Expressivism – can use the resources of cognitivism to provide a relatively straightforward solution to the Frege-Geachproblem. In this paper we argue that Ridge’s Ecumenical Expressivist response to the Frege-Geachproblem is inadequate and explore the consequences of this inadequacy for our outlook on moral psychology. (shrink)
É assumido com frequência que o chamado "argumento Frege-Geach" refuta o expressivismo, ou seja, a visão de que sentenças morais não são primariamente fatos situados, mas expressam atitudes ou emoções. Neste trabalho, tento refutar essa suposição e demonstrar que o argumento de Frege-Geach não representa uma ameaça séria para o expressivismo. Depois de uma apresentação inicial do argumento Frege-Geach, eu tento abrir o caminho para uma defesa do expressivismo por meio do delineamento do que (...) o expressivista tem que fazer e não fazer, a fim de defender-se contra aquela posição. Esta etapa preliminar, eu argumento, fornece ao expressivista uma resposta adequada à objeção de Frege-Geach. Finalmente, eu discuto a estratégia de Blackburn de defesa do expressivismo contra essa objeção e tento mostrar que, embora de forma não intencional por Blackburn, o fracasso dessa estratégia dá apoio ao expressivismo. (shrink)
Expressivists, such as Blackburn, analyse sentences such as 'S thinks that it ought to be the case that p' as S hoorays that p'. A problem is that the former sentence can be negated in three different ways, but the latter in only two. The distinction between refusing to accept a moral judgement and accepting its negation therefore cannot be accounted for. This is shown to undermine Blackburn's solution to the Frege-Geachproblem.
CHANGE SLIDE Go through outline of talk CHANGE SLIDE It is my sincerest hope that if there is one thing that people take away from Moral Fictionalism, it is the recognition that standard noncognitivism involves a syndrome of three, logically distinct claims. Standard noncognitivists claim that moral judgment is not belief or any other cognitive attitude but is, rather, a noncognitive attitude more akin to desire; that this noncognitive attitude is expressed by our public moral utterances; and, hence, that our (...) public moral utterances lack a distinctively moral subject matter and so are not answerable to the moral facts. Notice, however, that these are logically distinct claimsthe rst is a psychological claim, the second and third, positive and negative semantic claims, respectively. We can regiment the familiar technical vocabulary as follow: CHANGE.. (shrink)
Every expressivist theory of moral language requires a solution to the Frege-Geachproblem, i.e., the problem of explaining how moral sentences retain their meaning in unasserted contexts. An essential part of Blackburn’s ‘quasi-realist project’, i.e., the project of showing how we can earn the right to treat moral sentences as if they have ordinary truth-conditions, is to provide a sophisticated solution. I show, however, that simple negated contexts provide a fundamental difficulty, since accepting the negation of (...) a sentence is easily confused with merely refusing to accept that sentence. I argue that Blackburn’s model-set semantics for his ‘Hooray!’ and ‘Boo!’ operators requires logical apparatus to which he is not entitled. I consider various modifications, but show that they do not succeed. (shrink)
This thesis is about the viability of meta-normative expressivism. On what I take to be the dominant conception of the view, it subscribes to two theses. First, that the meaning of sentences is to be explained in terms of the mental states these sentences conventionally express. Second, that there is a fundamental difference in the roles of the states expressed by normative sentences and the states expressed by descriptive sentences: descriptive sentences, according to expressivists, express mental states which are representational (...) and non-motivational, while normative sentences express non-representational and motivational states. Expressivism has attracted many naturalistically inclined philosophers for its ability to explain many of the distinctive features of normative discourse and thought, without adding entities to our ontology that are metaphysically and epistemologically problematic. In this way, expressivism promises to preserve the legitimacy of our ordinary normative practice within a naturalistic world-view, without giving up on any of its distinctive features. Despite it’s benefits, expressivism also faces significant problems. While one of these problems, the Frege-GeachProblem, has attracted a lot of attention, there are several other problems that have not been sufficiently addressed by. But, given that the reasonable assumption that the plausibility of philosophical theories needs to be assessed holistically, it seems that one should pay attention to these problems to be able to assess expressivism’s overall plausibility. In this thesis I explain how expressivists can solve two of these problems. The first problem the dissertation is concerned with is the normative attitude problem. This is a dilemma based on the challenge that expressivists need to give an account of the nature of the attitude that normative thinking consists in. The dilemma is then that expressivists could either do this by holding that normative thinking consists in sui generis attitudes, which is uninformative and potentially in conflict with naturalism, or by holding that normative thinking reduces to attitudes fully describable in non-normative terms, which is in conflict with our intuitions about normative thinking. I argue that this dilemma is structurally identical to a dilemma which meta-normative representationalism faces and that expressivists can use the same theoretical resources to address the normative attitude problem meta-normative representationalists have used to address their version of the dilemma. I also argue that these resources will not only help more traditional versions of expressivism, according to which normative thinking reduces to familiar kinds of attitudes fully describable in non-normative terms, but opens up the possibility of an expressivist view according to which normative thinking consists in sui generis attitudes. The second problem I consider is a challenge to a particular expressivist project: quasi-realism. Part of this project is to show that expressivism is compatible with a web of closely connected assumptions, namely, that normative thought and discourse are truth-apt and normative judgements are beliefs. While quasi-realists have made some progress in this direction, there is one relevant phenomenon that has so far been neglected, namely, those uses of that-clauses that are associated with propositional content. This is a problematic neglect, because that-clauses figure prominently in platitudes characterizing our ordinary notions of “truth-aptitude” and “belief ”, and so expressivists need to provide a plausible account of these uses of that-clauses which fits with their allowing that normative thought and discourse are truth-apt and normative judgements are beliefs. I address this challenge as follows: I first remove any worries that one might have that a plausible account of that-clauses that helps the quasi-realist could be given, by introducing the distinction between semantics and meta-semantics and locating expressivism at the level of metasemantics. I then develop a deflationist view of that-clauses which suits the quasi-realist’s purposes. I start by giving such a view for the use of that-clauses in meaning-attributions by expanding on the work of Wilfried Sellars. I then go on to explain how the account can be generalized to the use of that-clauses in belief-attributions and propositional attitude ascriptions more generally, in a way that allows expressivists to say that normative judgements are beliefs. (shrink)
According to judgment internalism, there is a conceptual connection between moral judgment and motivation. This paper offers an argument against that kind of internalism that does not involve counterexamples of the amoralist sort. Instead, it is argued that these forms of judgment internalism fall prey to a Frege-Geach type argument.
In print, the central objection to expressivism has been the Frege–Geachproblem. Yet most cognitivists seem to be motivated by “deeper” worries, ones they have spent comparatively little time pursuing in print. Part of the explanation for this mismatch between motivation and rhetoric is likely that those deeper worries are largely metaphysical. Since expressivism is not a metaphysical view, it can be hard to see how to mount a relevant attack. The strategy in this chapter is to (...) introduce claims about thought and language, rather than metaphysics, that represent common intuitions about normative objectivity. It then argues that popular forms of expressivism cannot accommodate these claims if they are to solve the negation problem—an aspect of Frege–Geach. If successful, this shows that expressivism really does have a problem accommodating normative objectivity. But, significantly, it does so without requiring any assumptions about what expressivist metaphysics look like. (shrink)
It is almost universally accepted that the Frege–Geach Point is necessary for explaining the inferential relations and compositional structure of truth-functionally complex propositions. I argue that this claim rests on a disputable view of propositional structure, which models truth-functionally complex propositions on atomic propositions. I propose an alternative view of propositional structure, based on a certain notion of simulation, which accounts for the relevant phenomena without accepting the Frege–Geach Point. The main contention is that truth-functionally complex (...) propositions do not include as their parts truth-evaluable propositions, but their simulations, which are neither forceful nor truth-evaluable. The view makes room for the idea that there is no such thing as the forceless expression of propositional contents and is attractive because it provides the resources for avoiding a fundamental problem generated by the Frege–Geach Point concerning the relation between forceless and forceful expressions of propositional contents. I further argue that the acceptance of the Frege–Geach Point mars Peter Hanks’ and François Recanati’s recent attempts to resist the widespread idea that assertoric force is extrinsic to the expression of propositional contents. Rejecting this idea, I maintain, requires a deeper break with the tradition than Hanks and Recanati have allowed for. (shrink)
L’article cherche à fournir une défense de la théorie discursive de la morale de Habermas contre une critique importante formulée récemment par J. G. Finlayson, lequel soutient que Habermas rejetterait ce qu’il appelle le « cognitivisme métaéthique » et qu’un tel rejet le confronterait au problème de Frege-Geach. L’article démontre en détail que cette critique est non fondée. Il montre de plus que la seule forme de cognitivisme rejetée par Habermas est le descriptivisme moral en ce que cette (...) approche serait contre-intuitive eu égard à l’usage normal de nos expressions morales. L’article cherche finalement à répondre à certaines objections majeures que les philosophes descriptivistes pourraient soulever à l’endroit de la théorie habermassienne de la morale, en particulier contre sa thèse de l’analogie entre vérité propositionnelle et justesse normative.The paper aims at providing a defence of Habermas’s discourse theory of morality against a significant criticism recently levelled by J. G. Finlayson, who maintains that Habermas would reject what he calls “metaethical cognitivism” and that such a rejection would cause him to face what has been known as the Frege-Geachproblem. The paper demonstrates in detail that this claim is unfounded. It further shows that the only form of cognitivism rejected by Habermas is moral descriptivism, since this approach would be counter-intuitive as regards the normal use of our moral expressions. The paper finally seeks to respond to major objections descriptivist philosophers might raise against Habermas’s theory of morality, in particular against his analogy thesis between propositional truth and normative rightness. (shrink)
This is a critical discussion of Habermas's conception of moral cognitivism. I explain how it fits in with his meta-ethical anti-realism. I place Habermas's Discourse Ethics in the broad field of analytic meta-ethics. I also look at the question of whether the Frege-Geachproblem applies to Habermas's Discourse Ethics, and if so, how he should best reply.
We develop a novel solution to the negation version of the Frege-Geachproblem by taking up recent insights from the bilateral programme in logic. Bilateralists derive the meaning of negation from a primitive *B-type* inconsistency involving the attitudes of assent and dissent. Some may demand an explanation of this inconsistency in simpler terms, but we argue that bilateralism’s assumptions are no less explanatory than those of *A-type* semantics that only require a single primitive attitude, but must stipulate (...) inconsistency elsewhere. Based on these insights, we develop a version of B-type expressivism called *inferential expressivism*. This is a novel semantic framework that characterises meanings by inferential roles that define which *attitudes* one can *infer* from the use of terms. We apply this framework to normative vocabulary, thereby solving the Frege-Geachproblem generally and comprehensively. Our account moreover includes a semantics for epistemic modals, thereby also explaining normative terms under epistemic modals. (shrink)
Geach is best known for his contributions to theoretical philosophy: Most of his more than one hundred papers and a dozen books are on logic, philosophy of language and metaphysics. But he also made significant contributions to ethics. Particularly influential were a series of short metaethics papers, which are small masterpieces, both in terms of philosophical content and style. In usually less than ten pages, Geach delivers sharp analyses and powerful objections against influential schools. His arguments are always (...) so clear and his examples so simple that they leave the reader wondering why no one before Geach detected the problems he points out. (shrink)
I argue that Frege's so-called "concept 'horse' problem" is not one problem but many. When these different sub-problems are distinguished, some emerge as more tractable than others. I argue that, contrary to a widespread scholarly assumption originating with Peter Geach, there is scant evidence that Frege engaged with the general problem of the inexpressibility of logical category distinctions in writings available to Wittgenstein. In consequence, Geach is mistaken in his claim that in the (...) Tractatus Wittgenstein simply accepts from Frege certain lessons about the inexpressibility of logical category distinctions and the say-show distinction. In truth, Wittgenstein drew his own morals about these matters, quite possibly as the result of reflecting on how the general problem of the inexpressibility of logical category distinctions arises in Frege's writings , but also, quite possibly, by discerning certain glimmerings of these doctrines in the writings of Russell. (shrink)
A difficulty is exposed in Allan Gibbard's solution to the embedding/Frege-Geachproblem, namely that the difference between refusing to accept a normative judgement and accepting its negation is ignored. This is shown to undermine the whole solution.
The author contends that moral utterances and imperatives have different logical features. He discusses r m hare's "language of morals" in terms of his distinction between plain imperatives and deontic utterances. (staff).
Expressive-Assertivism, a metaethical theory championed by Daniel Boisvert, is sometimes considered to be a particularly promising form of hybrid expressivism. One of the main virtues of Expressive-Assertivism is that it seems to offer a simple solution to the Frege-Geachproblem. I argue, in contrast, that Expressive-Assertivism faces much the same challenges as pure expressivism.
Professor geach's article criticized our earlier "analysis" paper on pages 48-50 of "on denoting." he took us to have offered an account of russell's earlier use of the expression "denoting phrase" which he regarded as inadequate. But we had not done so: we were interested solely in the denoting phrases which are perplexing russell on those pages, And we repeat our view that the problem which russell had found arises as much for frege's theory of reference as (...) for russell's own earlier theory. The extension of "denoting phrase" as used in "principles of mathematics" is irrelevant, As was geach's subsequent discussion of the problem we tried to identify. (shrink)
Frege-Geach worries about embedding and composition have plagued metaethical theories like emotivism, prescriptivism and expressivism. The sharpened point of such criticism has come to focus on whether negation and inconsistency have to be understood in descriptivist terms. Because they reject descriptivism, these theories must offer a non-standard account of the meanings of ethical and normative sentences as well as related semantic facts, such as why certain sentences are inconsistent with each other. This paper fills out such a solution (...) to the negation problems, following some of the original emotivist ideas about the interplay of interests in conversation. We communicate both to share information and coordinate our actions, and we use distinctively normative language like deontic ‘must’ and ‘may’ to negotiate what people are to do. The kinds of disagreement involved in such negotiation can illuminate the issues with negation and inconsistency. This paper outlines a dynamic semantic system in which these ideas can bear fruit, developing the scorekeeping model of conversation. The result is clarification about what Frege-Geach worries can mean for nondescriptive semantics. (shrink)
An early objection to Simon Blackburn’s first attempts to breathe new life into expressivism—by solving the Frege-Geachproblem—was that whilst viewing compound sentences featuring moral components as expressive of attitudes towards combinations of attitudes might enable one to make out that a thinker who, to take the usual example, asserts the premisses but will not accept the conclusion of a moral modus ponens is at fault because they are involved in a “clash of attitudes”, this does no (...) justice to the data of the problem, since the failing here is logical, not just moral or more generally practical. Blackburn claims to have an effective answer to this objection—a way to see how, as he now puts it, expressivism can after all “deliver the mighty ‘musts’ of logic”. I remain unconvinced. (shrink)
This paper is a concise survey of recent expressivist theories of discourse, focusing on the ethical case. For each topic discussed recent trends are summarised and suggestions for further reading provided. Issues covered include: the nature of the moral attitude; ‘hybrid’ views according to which moral judgements express both beliefs and attitudes; the quasi-realist programmes of Simon Blackburn and Allan Gibbard; the problem of creeping minimalism; the nature of the ‘expression’ relation; the Frege-Geachproblem; the (...) class='Hi'>problem of wishful thinking; the role of moral intuitions; expressivism in aesthetics. (shrink)
This is my Cambridge PhD thesis, written under the supervision of Hugh Mellor and Richard Healey, and examined by Mary Hesse and Simon Blackburn. It addresses what it takes to be the core of the problem of single case probability, namely, the interpretation of claims such as ‘It is probable that P’ (where the probabilistic component occurs as a sentential or propositional operator). I argue that claims of this form are not genuinely truth-apt, and that such operators modify the (...) force, rather than the sense, of sentences or propositions to which they attach. In contemporary terms, I thus defend a version of what Yalcin (2012) has called ‘credal expressivism’. Some of the core arguments were later published in the following papers: (i) ‘Does “Probably” modify sense?’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61(1983), 396–408 and (ii) 'Mellor, chance and the single case', British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 35(1984), 11-23. Other arguments, including an attempt at the Frege-Geachproblem, form the basis of an unpublished piece 'The use of force in a theory of meaning' (1983), accessible at PhilPapers. (shrink)
The Negation Problem states that expressivism has insufficient structure to account for the various ways in which a moral sentence can be negated. We argue that the Negation Problem does not arise for expressivist accounts of all normative language but arises only for the specific examples on which expressivists usually focus. In support of this claim, we argue for the following three theses: 1) a problem that is structurally identical to the Negation Problem arises in non-normative (...) cases, and this problem is solved once the hidden quantificational structure involved in such cases is uncovered; 2) the terms ‘required’, ‘permissible’, and ‘forbidden’ can also be analyzed in terms of hidden quantificational structure, and the Negation Problem disappears once this hidden structure is uncovered; 3) the Negation Problem does not arise for normative language that has no hidden quantificational structure. We conclude that the Negation Problem is not really a problem about expressivism at all but is rather a feature of the quantificational structure of the required, permitted, and forbidden. (shrink)
Non-cognitivism might seem to offer a plausible account of evaluative judgments, at least on the assumption that there is a satisfactory solution to the Frege-Geachproblem. However, Cian Dorr has argued that non-cognitivism remains implausible even assuming that the Frege-Geachproblem can be solved, on the grounds that non-cognitivism still has to classify some paradigmatically rational inferences as irrational. Dorr's argument is ingenious and at first glance seems decisive. However, in this paper I will (...) show that Dorr's argument equivocates between two different notions of evidence, and that once this equivocation is noted there is no reason to doubt that non-cognitivism is consistent with the rationality of such inferences, at least if it is assumed that the Frege-Geachproblem can be solved. In particular, I will show that non-cognitivists can endorse the same explanation of the rationality of such inferences that cognitivists should endorse, and that there is thus no need for non-cognitivists to offer any sort of idiosyncratic account of the epistemology of such cases, in contrast to what other commentators on Dorr's argument have thought. (shrink)
Normative judgments involve two gradable features. First, the judgments themselves can come in degrees; second, the strength of reasons represented in the judgments can come in degrees. Michael Smith has argued that non-cognitivism cannot accommodate both of these gradable dimensions. The degrees of a non-cognitive state can stand in for degrees of judgment, or degrees of reason strength represented in judgment, but not both. I argue that (a) there are brands of noncognitivism that can surmount Smith’s challenge, and (b) any (...) brand of non-cognitivism that has even a chance of solving the Frege–GeachProblem and some related problems involving probabilistic consistency can also thereby solve Smith’s problem. Because only versions of non-cognitivism that can solve the Frege–GeachProblem are otherwise plausible, all otherwise plausible versions of noncognitivism can meet Smith’s challenge. (shrink)