•  806
    Is epistemic expressivism incompatible with inquiry?
    with J. Adam Carter
    Philosophical Studies 159 (3): 323-339. 2012.
    Expressivist views of an area of discourse encourage us to ask not about the nature of the relevant kinds of values but rather about the nature of the relevant kind of evaluations. Their answer to the latter question typically claims some interesting disanalogy between those kinds of evaluations and descriptions of the world. It does so in hope of providing traction against naturalism-inspired ontological and epistemological worries threatening more ‘realist’ positions. This is a familiar positi…Read more
  •  501
    A dilemma for moral fictionalism
    Philosophical Books 49 (1): 4-13. 2007.
    This article is a critical study of Mark Kalderon's excellent book *Moral Fictionalism*.
  •  475
    Ought to Believe
    Journal of Philosophy 105 (7): 346-370. 2008.
    My primary purpose in this paper is to sketch a theory of doxastic oughts that achieves a satisfying middle ground between the extremes of rejecting epistemic deontology because one thinks beliefs are not within our direct voluntary control and rejecting doxastic involuntarism because one thinks that some doxastic oughts must be true. The key will be appreciating the obvious fact that not all true oughts require direct voluntary control. I will construct my account as an attempt to surpass other…Read more
  •  443
    Expressivism, Inferentialism, and Saving the Debate
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 77 (2): 334-358. 2008.
    This paper addresses the “creeping minimalism” challenge to quasi-realist forms of expressivism by arguing that the solution suggested by Dreier doesn’t work and proposing an alternative solution based on the different inferential roles of ethical and descriptive judgments.
  •  340
    Protest and Speech Act Theory
    In Rachel Katharine Sterken & Justin Khoo (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Social and Political Philosophy of Language, Routledge. pp. 179-192. 2021.
    This paper attempts to explain what a protest is by using the resources of speech-act theory. First, we distinguish the object, redress, and means of a protest. This provided a way to think of atomic acts of protest as having dual communicative aspects, viz., a negative evaluation of the object and a connected prescription of redress. Second, we use Austin’s notion of a felicity condition to further characterize the dual communicative aspects of protest. This allows us to distinguish protest fro…Read more
  •  336
    On the Meaning of 'Ought'
    In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, vol. 7, Oxford University Press. pp. 304. 2012.
    Discussions about the meaning of the word “ought” are pulled in two apparently competing directions. First, in ethical theory this word is used in the paradigmatic statement of ethical principles and conclusions about what some agent is obligated to do. This leads some ethical theorists to claim that the word “ought” describes a real relation, roughly, of being obligated to (realism) or expresses some non-cognitive attitude toward agents acting in certain ways (expressivism). Second, in theoreti…Read more
  •  309
    It is a piece of philosophical common sense that belief and knowledge are states. Some epistemologists reject this claim in hope of answering certain difficult questions about the normative evaluation of belief. I shall argue, however, that this move offends not only against philosophical commonsense but also against ordinary common sense, at least as far as this is manifested in the semantic content of the words we use to talk about belief and knowledge. I think it is relatively easily to show …Read more
  •  294
    Epistemic Expressivism
    Philosophy Compass 7 (2): 118-126. 2012.
    Epistemic expressivism is the application of a nexus of ideas, which is prominent in ethical theory (more specifically, metaethics), to parallel issues in epistemological theory (more specifically, metaepistemology). Here, in order to help those new to the debate come to grips with epistemic expressivism and recent discussions of it, I first briefly present this nexus of ideas as it occurs in ethical expressivism. Then, I explain why and how some philosophers have sought to extend it to a vers…Read more
  •  286
    ‘Ought’ and Control
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (3): 433-451. 2012.
    Ethical theorists often assume that the verb ?ought? means roughly ?has an obligation?; however, this assumption is belied by the diversity of ?flavours? of ought-sentences in English. A natural response is that ?ought? is ambiguous. However, this response is incompatible with the standard treatment of ?ought? by theoretical semanticists, who classify ?ought? as a member of the family of modal verbs, which are treated uniformly as operators. To many ethical theorists, however, this popular treat…Read more
  •  273
    Ethical neo-expressivism
    In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics: Volume 4, Oxford University Press. pp. 132-65. 2009.
    A standard way to explain the connection between ethical claims and motivation is to say that these claims express motivational attitudes. Unless this connection is taken to be merely a matter of contingent psychological regularity, it may seem that there are only two options for understanding it. We can either treat ethical claims as expressing propositions that one cannot believe without being at least somewhat motivated (subjectivism), or we can treat ethical claims as nonpropositional and as…Read more
  •  270
    Attitudinal Expressivism and Logical Pragmatism
    In Graham Hubbs & Douglas Lind (eds.), Pragmatism, Law, and Language, . pp. 117-135. 2014.
    Contemporary discussions of expressivism in metaethics tend to run together two quite different antidescriptivist views, and only one of them is subject to the objection about compositional semantics pressed most recently by Schroeder (following Dreier, Unwinn, Hale, Geach and others). Here I distinguish the two versions of expressivism and then go on to suggest that those sympathetic to the second sort of expressivism might improve their account of normative vocabulary and the way it figures in…Read more
  •  244
    From Epistemic Contextualism to Epistemic Expressivism
    Philosophical Studies 135 (2): 225-254. 2007.
    In this paper, I exploit the parallel between epistemic contextualism and metaethical speaker-relativism to argue that a promising way out of two of the primary problems facing contextualism is one already explored in some detail in the ethical case – viz. expressivism. The upshot is an argument for a form of epistemic expressivism modeled on a familiar form of ethical expressivism. This provides a new nondescriptivist option for understanding the meaning of knowledge attributions, which arguabl…Read more
  •  233
    Conceptual Role Accounts of Meaning in Metaethics
    In Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics, Routledge. pp. 260-274. 2017.
    This paper explains three ways to develop a conceptual role view of meaning in metaethics. First, it suggests that there’s a way to combine inspiration from noncognitivism with a particular form of the conceptual role view to form a noncognitivist view with distinctive advantages over other noncognitivist views. Second, it suggests that there’s also a way to combine a strong commitment to cognitivism with a different form of the conceptual role view to form a version of cognitivism with distinct…Read more
  •  231
    Expressivism, Inferentialism, and the Theory of Meaning
    In Michael Brady (ed.), New Waves in Metaethics, Palgrave-macmillan. 2010.
    One’s account of the meaning of ethical sentences should fit – roughly, as part to whole – with one’s account of the meaning of sentences in general. When we ask, though, where one widely discussed account of the meaning of ethical sentences fits with more general accounts of meaning, the answer is frustratingly unclear. The account I have in mind is the sort of metaethical expressivism inspired by Ayer, Stevenson, and Hare, and defended and worked out in more detail recently by Blackburn, Gibb…Read more
  •  231
    Metanormative Theory and the Meaning of Deontic Modals
    In Nate Charlow & Matthew Chrisman (eds.), Deontic Modality, Oxford University Press. pp. 395-424. 2016.
    Philosophical debate about the meaning of normative terms has long been pulled in two directions by the apparently competing ideas: (i) ‘ought’s do not describe what is actually the case but rather prescribe possible action, thought, or feeling, (ii) all declarative sentences deserve the same general semantic treatment, e.g. in terms of compositionally specified truth conditions. In this paper, I pursue resolution of this tension by rehearsing the case for a relatively standard truth-conditional…Read more
  •  214
    The Aim of Belief and the Goal of Truth
    In James O.’Shea Eric Rubenstein (ed.), elf, Language, and World: Problems from Kant, Sellars, and Rosenberg, Ridgeview Publishing Co.. 2010.
    Davidson, Rorty, and Rosenberg each reject, for similar reasons, the idea that truth is the aim of belief and the goal of inquiry. Rosenberg provides the most explicit and compelling argument for this provocative view. Here, with a focus on this argument, I suggest that this view is a mistake, but not for the reasons some might think. In my view, we can view truth as a constitutive aim of belief even if not a regulative goal of inquiry, if we adopt a Sellarsian view of the ought-to-be’s of be…Read more
  •  209
    Review of Shafer-Landau's Moral Realism (review)
    Ethics 116 (1): 250-255. 2005.
    G. E. Moore famously argued on the basis of semantic intuitions that moral properties are not reducible to natural properties, and therefore that moral predicates refer to nonnatural properties. This clearly represents a version of “moral realism,” but it is a testament to the strength of naturalist intuitions in contemporary philosophical debate that, insofar as one accepts Moore’s arguments, this is typically seen as a boon for antirealists rather than realists. For many philosophers worry tha…Read more
  •  193
    I imagine that people will complain that the account of normative concepts defended in Gibbard’s new book makes the metaethical waters even muddier because it blurs the line between cognitivism and noncognitivism and between realism and antirealism. However, these labels are philosophic tools, and in the wake of Gibbard’s new book, one might rightly conclude that there are new and better philosophical tools emerging on the metaethical scene. The uptake of views about practical reasoning—as exhib…Read more
  •  189
    From Epistemic Expressivism to Epistemic Inferentialism
    In Adrian Haddock, Alan Millar & Duncan Pritchard (eds.), Social Epistemology, Oxford University Press. 2010.
    Recent philosophical debate about the meaning of knowledge claims has largely centered on the question of whether epistemic claims are plausibly thought to be context sensitive. The default assumption has been that sentences that attribute knowledge or justification have stable truth-conditions across different contexts of utterance, once any non-epistemic context sensitivity has been fixed. The contrary view is the contextualist view that such sentences do not have stable truth-conditions but c…Read more
  •  178
    Epistemic Normativity and Cognitive Agency
    Noûs 52 (3): 508-529. 2018.
    On the assumption that genuinely normative demands concern things connected in some way to our agency, i.e. what we exercise in doing things with or for reasons, epistemologists face an important question: are there genuine epistemic norms governing belief, and if so where in the vicinity of belief are we to find the requisite cognitive agency? Extant accounts of cognitive agency tend to focus on belief itself or the event of belief-formation to answer this question, to the exclusion of the acti…Read more
  •  160
    Expressivism, truth, and (self-) knowledge
    Philosophers' Imprint 9 1-26. 2009.
    In this paper, I consider the prospects of two different kinds of expressivism – ethical expressivism and avowal expressivism – in light of two common objections. The first objection stems from the fact that it is natural to think of ethical statements and avowals as at least potential manifestations of knowledge. The second objection stems from the fact that it is natural to treat ethical statements and avowals as truth-evaluable. I argue that, although a recent avowal expressivist attempt (Bar…Read more
  •  147
    The Aim of Belief and the Goal of Truth: Reflections on Rosenberg
    In Pedro Schmechtig & Martin Grajner (eds.), Epistemic Reasons, Norms, and Goals, De Gruyter. pp. 357-382. 2016.
    This paper considers an argument from Rosenberg (Thinking about Knowing, 2002) that truth is not and cannot be the aim of belief. Here, I reconstruct what I take to be the most well worked out version of this idea tracing back to Rorty and Davidson. In response, I also distinguish two things the truth-aim could be: a goal regulating our executable epistemic conduct and an end which determines the types of evaluation, susceptibility to which is partially constitutive of what a belief is.
  •  136
    Constructivism, Expressivism and Ethical Knowledge
    International Journal of Philosophical Studies 18 (3): 331-353. 2010.
    In the contemporary metaethical debate, expressivist (Blackburn, Gibbard) and constructivist (Korsgaard, Street) views can be viewed as inspired by irrealist ideas from Hume and Kant respectively. One realist response to these contemporary irrealist views is to argue that they are inconsistent with obvious surface-level appearances of ordinary ethical thought and discourse, especially the fact that we talk and act as if there is ethical knowledge . In this paper, I explore some constructivist an…Read more
  •  135
    Two nondescriptivist views of normative and evaluative statements
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 48 (3-4): 405-424. 2018.
    The dominant route to nondescriptivist views of normative and evaluative language is through the expressivist idea that normative terms have distinctive expressive roles in conveying our attitudes. This paper explores an alternative route based on two ideas. First, a core normative term ‘ought’ is a modal operator; and second, modal operators play a distinctive nonrepresentational role in generating meanings for the statements in which they figure. I argue that this provides for an attractive al…Read more
  •  95
    X—Knowing What One Ought to Do
    Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 115 (2pt2): 167-186. 2015.
    This paper considers two competing pictures of knowledge of what one ought to do—one which assimilates this to other propositional knowledge conceived as partial ‘locational’ knowledge of where one is in a space of possibilities, the other which distinguishes this from other propositional knowledge by construing it as partial ‘directional’ knowledge of what to do in particular circumstances. I argue that the apparent tension can be lessened by better understanding the contextualized modal-cum-pr…Read more
  •  87
    Using big words to explain little words
    Think 10 (29): 23-36. 2011.
    Sometimes, when I go to dinner parties organized by my partner, people ask me what I do, and I say that I'm a philosopher. But when I fumble at their questions about ‘my philosophy’, my partner will describe what I do by saying, ‘He uses big words to explain little words.’ Although this is meant tongue in cheek, it's basically right. My philosophical research is mainly in metaethics and the philosophy of language with a focus on the semantics of moral words. This means, for better or worse, that…Read more
  •  81
    The word 'ought' is one of the core normative terms, but it is also a modal word. In this book Matthew Chrisman develops a careful account of the semantics of 'ought' as a modal operator, and uses this to motivate a novel inferentialist account of why ought-sentences have the meaning that they have. This is a metanormative account that agrees with traditional descriptivist theories in metaethics that specifying the truth-conditions of normative sentences is a central part of the explanation of t…Read more
  •  60
    Reasons as Defaults by John F. Horty
    Mind 124 (495): 919-924. 2015.
  •  58
    Emotivism
    In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Ethics, Wiley-blackwell. 2013.
    This is a brief overview of the view in metaethics called Emotivism.
  •  53
    (How) Is Ethical Neo-Expressivism a Hybrid View?
    In Guy Fletcher & Michael Ridge (eds.), Having It Both Ways: Hybrid Theories and Modern Metaethics, Oxford University Press. pp. 223-247. 2014.
    According to ethical neo-expressivism, all declarative sentences, including those used to make ethical claims, have propositions as their semantic contents, and acts of making an ethical claim are properly said to express mental states, which (if motivational internalism is correct) are intimately connected to motivation. This raises two important questions: (i) The traditional reason for denying that ethical sentences express propositions is that these were thought to determine ways the world c…Read more