Ethical and epistemic expressions Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Chrisman, Matthew T.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
  • My dissertation has two principal aims. First, I develop a novel account of the meaning of ethical claims that provides a way to retain the advantages while overcoming problems with prominent descriptivist and noncognitivist metaethical accounts. Second, I show how this account extends naturally into an account of the meaning of epistemic claims in a way that can recast and begin to adjudicate recent metaepistemological debate between prominent contextualists and invariantists. Thus, in my dissertation the two central paradigms of normative discourse receive parallel treatment. Many philosophers treat ethical claims as descriptions of a special kind of fact, which raises difficult questions about the nature of ethical facts and our access to them. Other philosophers have argued that ethical clams are not descriptions but instead expressions of noncognitive attitudes, which avoids ontological and epistemological commitments but undercuts the apparent truth-evaluability and cognitive structure of ethical claims. My account of the meaning of ethical claims offers a third option, which I argue retains the benefits of descriptivism and noncognitivism while avoiding the drawbacks. To develop this view, I exploit the inferentialist idea that part of the meaning of ethical claims can be given in terms of what sort of commitment they express, where types of commitments are individuated by their inferential role. In brief, the thesis is that ethical claims express distinctively practical commitments. Although there is much recent debate about the truth-conditions of knowledge claims, many epistemologists have not even considered the epistemological parallel to the question at issue between ethical descriptivists and noncognitivists: What is the expressive role of knowledge claims? In the second part of this dissertation, I develop an inferentialist answer to this question modeled on my inferentialist version of ethical expressivism. The idea is to treat knowledge claims as the expression of a particular kind of distinctively practical commitment-roughly, it's the commitment to trust someone's judgment about some matter.
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  • Sayre-McCord, Geoffrey
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