There’s been a great discussion on an earlier thread about expressivism. I don’t want to kill it off, but I do want to raise a diferent worry about expressivism. It appears below the fold.
I’m going to assume in what
follows that Mark Shroeder is right about what the expressivist ought to say in
response to my earlier worries. I’m still
worried, but I want to push forward a
On behalf of the expressivist, we’ve distinguished between
BELIEF (the cognitive state) and — let’s call it "Elief" — the
state that I am in when I sincerely say that I believe something is wrong.
According to the expressivist,
I do not BELIEVE that torturing cats is wrong, but I do
elieve it. Because expressivist
semantics is true, we can truly say I believe that torturing cats is
wrong, because (perhaps) in ordinary english "belief" means "BELIEF or elief."
Now for the worry.
Here’s something everyone (except perhaps expressivists)
accepts: that what one believes can also be what one desires or fears or hopes,
some other propositional attitude towards.
An example: I believe that Tommy’s torturing the kitten is morally
don’t like Tommy, and believe that God will punish people who do morally wrong
things. So I am glad that Tommy’s
torturing the kitten is morally wrong.
The cognitivist says: there is a proposition — the proposition that Timmy’s torturing the cat is morally wrong — and this propsosition is the content of two attitudes, a belief and a hope.
What does the expressivist want to say? Here are some possibilities.
Option 1: There is a proposition — the proposition that Timmy’s torturing the cat is morally wrong — and it is the object of two attitudes, a hope and an elief (not a BELIEF.)
Question: If this proposition can be the object of a hope why can’t it be the object of a BELIEF? If this proposition can be the object of a hope, then certainly it can be the object of a fear, a desire, a contemplation, etc. (Actually, what does the expressivism want to say about "contemplation" or "entertaining"?) Why then not a BELIEF? But if this proposition can be the object of a BELIEF, what’s left of expressivism? Isn’t the expressivist committed to saying that I never BELIEVE propositions of this sort?
Option 2: Just as we distinguished elief and BELIEF, we must also distinguish ear and FEAR, ope and HOPE, etc. etc. In this case, I do not have a BELIEF and a HOPE, I have an elief and an ope. (The content of elief and ope is the same, but presumably this content is not a full proposition: instead, the content is something less — I am guessing that the best thing to say here is that the object of my ope and elief is simply Timmy’s act of torturing the cat.)
Question: Isn’t this too much? Bad enough we need to distinguish two mental states (BELIEF and elief) where previously we thought we had only one — but now we must say that each genuinely propositional attitude has a deformed twin brother. If expressivism requires this, shouldn’t we give up expressivism?
Option 3: The case I’ve described can’t really happen. I can’t hope that Timmy’s act is morally wrong. Whatever is going on, that can’t be it.
Question: Ok, this isn’t really a question, but this is obviously not acceptable, right?
Option 4: Someone smarter than me should help out here!