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Title: How to be an Ethical Non-Cognitivist
Authors: Hubble, Eric
Advisors: Smith, Michael
Rosen, Gideon
Contributors: Philosophy Department
Keywords: Ethical Thought
Mental Representation
Subjects: Philosophy
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Abstract This dissertation defends non-cognitivism in ethics by arguing that its distinctive claim costs it no explanatory power. Chapter One defines non-cognitivism in ethics as, roughly, the thesis that there are no conditions under which normative concepts would achieve robust representation of normative properties. It is the thesis that in thinking normative thoughts we do not achieve, nor do we even “try” to achieve, a robust representational connection with normative properties. I define the sort of robust representation at issue. The second chapter develops a new argument for non-cognitivism, the Regulation Argument. It claims that normative properties are unhelpful in explaining any of the features of normative thought. Normative beliefs need not be responsive to normative properties in a way that ordinary non-normative beliefs do need to be responsive to the properties they represent. This leaves normative thoughts interestingly disconnected from normative properties. Thus, appealing to normative properties offers no help in explaining features of our normative thoughts. Chapters Three, Four, and Five develop a non-cognitivist view of normative thought. Focusing on states of normative uncertainty, I argue that the non-cognitivist can actually accept accounts of these states that are almost identical to that of the cognitivist. This fact allows the non-cognitivist to explain the normative properties of normative thoughts. I illustrate by arguing that the non-cognitivist can accept the leading potential explanations of why it is irrational to have probabilistically incoherent normative credences. Chapters Six, Seven, and Eight focus on normative language. Once again, I claim that non-cognitivism need not be revisionary. In Chapter Six I argue that the non-cognitivist can accept standard semantic and meta-semantic views of normative language words and sentences. In Chapter Seven I make a case that the non-cognitivist can accept the orthodox definition of logical inconsistency, as well as the standard explanation of why it is problematic to accept logically inconsistent sentences. These two chapters together show why the non-cognitivist does not actually face the Frege-Geach problem. Finally, in Chapter Eight I argue that the non-cognitivist is not barred from giving an adequate account of what we do with normative language.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Philosophy

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