Expressivism and Tracking Mental States

As regular readers of this blog will no doubt have noticed, I have a continuing fascination with expressivism.  It both attracts and repels me, much like a David Lynch movie.  I’ve been trying to figure out what it is, exactly, that I don’t like.

Consider, in this vein, Moral Beliefism.  MB is a cognitivist view:  it’s the view that when you make moral utterances, you are expressing your moral beliefs.  Well, what realist could want more?  But listen to the following dialogue between Mob (a MOral Beliefist) and Og (the Other Guy).  Mob, like many metaethicists in professional mode, helpfully glosses all her moral utterances:

Mob:  Torture is wrong.  Of course, when I say that, I am just expressing my moral belief that torture is wrong.

Og:  What do you mean you’re “just expressing your belief”?  It’s not as if this kind of thing is morally optional.

Mob:  No, of course it’s not optional.  Of course, when I say that, I’m just expressing my belief that my belief that torture is wrong is not optional. 

Og:  Dude, torture is very very bad.

Mob:  I totally agree!  Of course, in agreeing with you, I am just expressing my belief that torture is very very bad.

Og, and I, get frustrated.  Mob seems to indicate, with the “just expressing” locution, that the beliefs are somehow optional, ungrounded, not corresponding to anything.  It’s as if Mob has pulled the beliefs out of her hat.  And of course she can say that they are not optional, but she gives the impression that this is one more optional belief—and optional non-optionality is not really non-optional.  And yet, MB is textbook cognitivism.  What’s missing?

I think this:  that the whole point of belief as a mental state is to track reality, to get things right.  And this is also the point of the reasoning that goes into believing:  it’s a procedure which we assume or intend to get us closer to the truth of things.  To say, “It’s just my belief” seems to communicate that this is not going on; the belief is not tracking truth or reality, and for that reason it would be equally ok, rationally speaking, to have the opposite belief.  This is the way many undergraduates use, “It’s just my opinion” about moral matters; even if we take ‘opinion’ to name a cognitive state, there is something unserious about saying that all moral views are simply expressions of one’s opinion.

This indicates that it is not the belief-state per se, but its reality-tracking feature that I value in cognitivism.  There are views of belief on which beliefs (or moral beliefs) do not have this feature, and so I am not happy with them either.  And I think here is what I don’t like about standard-issue expressivism:  expressivists hold that moral claims express desires or plans, and (the implicit assumption is) that desires/plans do not track anything.

But on the other hand, it seems possible that you could be an expressivist, holding that moral claims express desires, but holding that desires track (say) the good.  This is, after all, the classical view of desire.  I think I would have no objections to such an expressivism.

I don’t think this kind of expressivism can work for technical reasons, or rather, I don’t think it winds up really being expressivism.  But I think we see something like tracking-expressivist views popping up when people talk about the ‘correctness’ of desires or intentions or plans.  I’ve seen views like these in a number of places recently.

I’d be interested in any reflections readers have on these thoughts.  But here are some concrete questions.  (1) How close to classical views of desire as rational appetite for the good are those quasi-expressivists who appeal to ‘correctness’ of desires and plans?  Is that a real similarity?  (2) Is the no-tracking feature of standard-issue expressivism what captures the/a reason that people don’t like it as an account of moral judgment?

24 Replies to “Expressivism and Tracking Mental States

  1. The natural immediate response is in the spirit of quasi-realism: most expresivists would say it is consistent with their views that there are moral truths. And that good moral deliberation and reflection may well track it.

  2. Jimmy,
    But once the quasi-realist says that, we’re off to the races again. She will need to add an account of why, given that she thinks that good morral deliberation is likely to track moral truth, she is a QUASI-realist and not just a flat-out realist. Perhaps she will try a Blackburn-type move, according to which within moral discourse, ‘there is moral truth and our good deliberations track it’ is one of the things we say, but outside of moral discourse we must admit that there is no moral reality for us to track (though perhaps she will insist that no one ever actually stands outside moral discourse, so no one ever actually is forced to say such things — in which case one wonders where we find the theoretical standpoint from which flat-out realism is being denied). I doubt that a view like this is going to satisfy Heath any more than it satisfies me, since it seems committed to the view that from the objective standpoint (whether or not it admits that anyone ever occupies such a standpoint) there is no reality-tracking going on — it must admit something like this if it is to avoid flat-out realism.

  3. “I doubt that a view like this is going to satisfy Heath any more than it satisfies me, since it seems committed to the view that from the objective standpoint (whether or not it admits that anyone ever occupies such a standpoint) there is no reality-tracking going on…”
    In fact, Blackburn claims (in “Relativism”) that the concept of objectivity is fundamentally normative, and so all talk of an “objective standpoint” must be understood as internal to moral discourse. (Which can make it all the more perplexing why he isn’t a realist.)

  4. I think much of what Blackburn does to deal with this problem actually makes sense.
    Besides pro and con attitudes towards things in the world, we have also positive and negative attitudes towards certain kinds of moral sensitivities or sets of moral attitudes. We think that some people make more accurate and correct moral judgments than we do. When we say this, according to the expressivists, we express positive attitude towards some moral sensitivity that we value more than our own. Our sensitivity may lack features like coherence that we have positive attitude towards.
    Obviously, we don’t think that all our moral judgments are true but we think there is demand for them to aim at truth. According to the expressivist, this thought just is identical with the thought that we don’t have the moral sensitivity we have the strongest positive attitudes towards. And, by saying that we require moral beliefs to track truth what we are expressing is that we demand that people strive towards improved sensitivities – the ones that we have positive attitudes for. This includes the sensitivities we currently have.
    I think Blackburn is right about the alternative explanation. The talk about moral truths that we strive for needs to be earned and not just assumed.

  5. Here’s another thing expressivists might say that’s probably even better. They might start from the dialogue you gave and what’s wrong with it. Many people like Unger, Williamson and others have argued that one part of what it is to assert, say, p is to present oneself as knowing that p. What it is to know that p is to believe that p, to have justification for p, and p to be true (and something something). So, in asserting ‘torture is wrong’ I present myself as believing p, as having justification for p, and ‘p’ as true.
    The expressivist can now say in the moral case that the belief I present myself as having is technically speaking a desire-like state, to say present ‘p’ as true is just to say the same thing as p.
    However, the interesting thing comes from presenting oneself as having justification for the belief. This is what is undermined when one says later that ‘it’s *merely* what I believe’. Making that statement is to say that my belief is cognitively speaking just as good as any other. This represents myself as not having the justification for the belief that I presented myself as having when I made the assertion. This is the reason why Mob’s statement is paradoxical and violates the assertion practice.
    But, of course, the expressivist can accept that by the rules of the practice of making moral assertions assertions commits one to be able to have justification for one’s assertions (as assertion is to present oneself as knowing and therefore having justification). Read Blackburn and he repeats again and again that torture is wrong because it hurts and causes suffering and because of whole lot of other reasons. In this game of giving and asking for reasons, we draw our attention to the specific features we have the pro and con attitudes towards and ensure that our attitudes and the attitudes of others are coherent and one’s we really want to have. This is required for the social action-cordinating role moral attitudes are supposed to play.

  6. As I understand it, expressivism is fundamentally a parity thesis. It is the view that moral sentences like ‘murder is wrong’ are related to non-cognitive states of mind (disapproving of murder) in the very same way that ordinary descriptive sentences like ‘grass is green’ are related to ordinary descriptive beliefs (believing that grass is green). There is no ‘just expresses’ about it – the view is precisely that moral sentences no more ‘just express’ attitudes than descriptive sentences ‘just express’ beliefs – it’s exactly the same relationship, and so if you are comfortable with the relationship between descriptive sentences and descriptive thought, then you should be comfortable with the relationship between moral sentences and moral thought – it just turns out that moral thoughts turn out to be structurally somewhat different than descriptive thoughts do. As Gibbard put it in 1990, ‘that words express judgments will, of course, be accepted by almost everyone.’
    Now Heath asks, ‘what about all of this talk about correctness of attitudes? where does that leave us?’ And the answer, it looks to me, depends on the interpretation that we give to the talk about correctness. If ‘is correct’ expresses another non-cognitive attitude, then the situation with respect to the claim that some attitudes are correct is no different from that with respect to the minimalist claim that some sentences are true. That, I take it, is the suggestion that most commentators so far are assuming is in play.
    But there is another possible view, as well. It is that the non-cognitive attitudes expressed by moral sentences have correctness conditions built into them from the ground up. Michael Pendlebury articulated a version of this idea in his presentation at the Eastern division APA last month, although I don’t think the final view that he defended was really expressivist.
    It’s easiest to imagine how the view would work by imagining a restricted version of expressivism that only applies to moral sentences, and leaving correctness out of it. The next step is to notice that there are correctness conditions on many emotions – it is incorrect to admire someone just because they offer you money to, for example, or to be amused by something just because it is morally unsalacious. Some have held, of course, that this is because these emotions themselves have a cognitive content, but that thesis is hard to defend in detail. If it is wrong, then some non-cognitive attitudes may themselves be subject to correctness conditions – ones that are driven by their nature, rather than by their content. I think this is the kind of idea Heath was articulating. If the attitudes expressed by moral sentences are among them, then those attitudes would have correctness conditions.
    This looks to me like it would lead to a view that is expressivist in every essential detail – the question, however, is whether someone who goes in for traditional motivations for expressivism, holding that there is no necessary rational connection between attitudes and facts about the world, could really be in a position to defend it. On the contrary, it looks like the assumptions you’d need to defend it look more like those to which anti-Humeans like McDowell and Nagel would be more sympathetic.
    Also, to Jussi – it’s complicated whether expression is a matter of presenting yourself as anything, as I discuss in ‘Expression for Expressivists’. I highly doubt that the best versions of expressivism will take this line, for reasons I explain in the paper. But I agree that the issue is connected with the norm of assertion, and discuss how.

  7. I think there is a genuine problem in the vicinity for the expressivist, pointed out by Drier. The problem is due to the fact that there are norms of rationality that govern normative judgments and thus the attitudes that they express, even if these norms are not equivalent to or derivable from the norm of truth that governs non-normative judgment. That these norms of rationality govern normative judgments is part of our very understanding of normative judgments. For example, it seems plausible that it is constitutive of understanding judgments about what one ought to do that one accepts that if one judges that one ought to x and yet fails to do or try to do x, one is irrational. And judgments of rationality are paradigmatically normative judgments.
    If this is right, then we cannot characterize the attitudes expressed by normative judgments in non-normative terms. But then an account that just says that normative judgments express noncognitive attitudes faces a regress. The concept of a non-cognitive attitude employed in the account will itself have to be analyzed in expressivist terms; that is, in terms of the non-cognitive attitudes expressed in ascriptions of non-cognitive attitudes, and these further attitudes will themselves have to be understood in expressivist terms, and so on into the night. The analysis thus never bottoms out.

  8. Nishi,
    that’s interesting. I vaguely remember that my expressivist friend Teemu Toppinen had some really clever reply to this problem but at the moment I cannot remember that one.
    But, here’s one point that one might question in the argument. Are judgments about rationality really paradigmatic normative judgments? I’m not sure about this.
    Say that I judge that I ought to count the blades of grass but I don’t desire to do so. In this case I am irrational, true. But, I don’t want to say that I really ought count grass or that I have reason to do so. And, that there are oughts or reasons about seem to be the hallmark of real normativity. Neither is the case that I ought to give up the judgment that this is what I ought to do for the reason *that I lack the desire*. That would be an odd reason to give up a normative judgment as Kolodny pointed out.
    So, it’s rather uncertain that rationality really is normative in the paradigmatic sense. It might be normative in the ‘by the lights of the agent’ kind of way. So, you might think in this case that given that I believe that I ought to count grass I by-my-own-lights-ought to desire to do so. But, I take it that the expressivist can be a normal cognivist/descriptivist about these ‘ought’ judgments and say that they are not real normative judgments.

  9. If I may answer Jamie’s question on Heath’s behalf, ‘track’ and ‘tracking’ can surely be read here as alluding to Nozick’s famous account of knowledge as a belief that “tracks the truth”. (There are no doubt many ways in which Nozick’s account needs to be cleaned up, but it is surely plausible that he’s onto something pretty important.) So, according to Heath, expressivism entails that it is at least not a fundamental explanatory feature of moral thought or discourse that it is governed by any norm that requires us to aim to accept moral judgments only in ways that “track” the moral truth in this sense (or in ways that “track” some other normative truth, like the “correctness” of some emotion or other attitude).
    Taken in this way, I find Heath’s analysis of expressivism highly plausible. Of course, Jimmy is right that Blackburn will resort to his favourite “quasi-realist” gambit of saying that when all is going well, our moral beliefs do track the moral truth. But Blackburn surely can’t appeal to this idea in his most fundamental explanation of the nature of moral discourse. That is part of what he means by saying that we must “earn the right” to speak of moral truths etc., by giving a philosophical explanation that eschews such “unexplained appeals to the normative”, at least at the most fundamental explanatory level. In ordinary life, we can say that our beliefs ought to track the moral truth, but this idea will play no role in our most fundamental philosophical theory of moral discourse.

  10. Not so fast, Ralph.
    Nozick’s notion is counterfactual. But the interesting moral facts are necessary. So I don’t see how tracking is going to make sense.

    If there were nothing wrong with enslaving ordinary human beings, then I wouldn’t believe that there was.

    Hm. Insofar as I can make sense of that, I don’t see how it could be true.
    As to contingent moral truths (“Sending more American troops to Iraq is a really bad idea”): doesn’t Blackburn claim (maybe in “Just Causes”) that he does think moral judgment tracks their truth?

  11. Thanks for the comments, everyone.
    Mark, granted that expressivism is a parity thesis. However, even on the cognitive side, there are attitudes that do better and worse at tracking truth—belief versus the undergraduate use of ‘opinion’, say—and what is not clear to me is that the expressivist about e.g. moral thought is in a position to argue that his view of moral judgments is more like belief, rather than more like ‘opinion’.
    I don’t know that I quite get the distinction you are drawing between two glosses on the correctness of attitudes. But here are some thoughts. It seems to me that the non-cognitivist must say that ‘…is correct’ is a normative predicate, and therefore expresses a non-cognitive attitude. But there is no easy comparison with minimalism about truth, I don’t think. Intuitively, the belief that it’s true that p is just the same as the belief that p. But intuitively (to me, anyway), judging that some attitude is correct is not the same as simply having that attitude. Weakness of will is an obvious counterexample. A further example: assuming that truth is correctness for beliefs, and that ‘…is correct’ expresses a non-cognitive attitude, then the expressivist has to say that the judgment that a belief that p is true is a matter of having a non-cognitive attitude toward the belief that p, which cannot be the same as the cognitive attitude of belief toward p.
    The view of ‘correctness’ that I had in mind was one like Pendlebury uses; it’s also one that Ralph Wedgwood has used in a couple of places (and, full disclosure, I have used it too). I think you’re right that it’s not really a version of expressivism. I’d be grateful if you could articulate the nature/content distinction in kinds of correctness further.
    Nishi, I’m very sympathetic to the problem you raise. Personally, I don’t think you can understand mental states without using normative terms. But Gibbard and, in a different way, Brandom have been willing to bite the bullet—it is or might be just norms, i.e. expressions of attitudes, all the way down. And (contra Jussi) especially once you take on board wide content, you don’t have to limit the relevant norms to those the agent can see for himself. Like you, I don’t find it fully satisfactory. But I guess some folks are okay with it.
    Ralph and Jamie, ‘tracking’ is a tricky matter. Since we are talking about necessary truths (sometimes), perhaps Nozick’s counterfactual analysis won’t work. But science sometimes discovers necessary truths (water = H2O), and the attitude of scientists toward these truths is supposed to be different, according to the non-cognitivist, from their attitude toward “Enslaving ordinary human beings is wrong.” (By the way, Jamie, do you think it’s okay to enslave non-ordinary human beings?) Here’s an attempt to make the ‘tracking’ notion clearer:
    Cognitive attitudes have one direction of fit, which is to say they “fail” (“are incorrect”) in some sense if they do not conform to the world. Non-cognitive attitudes have the other direction of fit, which is to say that they “fail” if the world does not wind up conforming to them. So far, this is a normative matter. But in healthy mental ecologies, you could expect that the production and maintenance of cognitive attitudes would be guided by systems which help ensure that cognitive attitudes fit the world, and the production and maintenance of non-cognitive attitudes would be guided by systems which help ensure that the world fits them. Thus, in a healthy mental ecology, there is some enforcement of the relevant norms for the different kinds of attitude, and direction of fit is a teleological matter as well.
    I think what I meant by “tracking” was both the normative and teleological dimensions of the cognitive direction of fit. It seems to me that the expressivist cannot say that e.g. moral judgments have these properties, at the fundamental level, because they are precisely what constitutes an attitude as cognitive. Now, no doubt the expressivist will attempt to gin these properties up at some non-fundamental level, though actual success in this attempt would raise questions about why the relevant attitudes are not “besires” after all. But the need to gin up is precisely what I, and perhaps others, find unsatisfactory.

  12. Heath,
    this is interesting. Few quick points. First you write that:
    “the belief that it’s true that p is just the same as the belief that p. [J]udging that some attitude is correct is not the same as simply having that attitude.’
    The two sentences imply that judging that a belief is true is not to judge that it is correct and to judge that it is correct is not to judge that it is true. Many people think that correctness is a matter of having warrant for the belief and truth requires more than just justification for the belief. But, you think that correctness comes apart from truth the other way – that judging that a belief is correct is governed by stricter norms than judging that it is true. Doesn’t that imply that correctness requires more than truth? What more could it be?
    I’m also lost about what the argument now is. You started from the idea that what’s wrong with expressivism is not that they don’t believe in moral beliefs but rather the mental states they accept don’t have the tracking feature. Then you explain the tracking feature in terms of direction of fit the correct one of which you take to be a defining feature of beliefs. So, it’s look like the argument is not independent from the states being beliefs or desires after all. Rather, it just seems to be a complaint that moral judgemnts are not beliefs.

  13. Heath – I agree with this much: expressivists have a theory about the nature of moral thought. They say it is a certain kind of attitude. But intuitively, moral thought is a lot like belief. What explains why this certain kind of attitude is so much like belief? That’s a huge project for expressivists to take on, and most of Horgan and Timmons’ work on the phenomenology of moral judgment looks like it is motivated by trying to address just a part of this problem.
    Next point: I pretended to be discussing a view that was expressivist only about morality, just in order to set aside the worries about circularity and regress that are hard not to get bothered by when you start employing “correct” in the process of stating the expressivist theory. Pendlebury, by the way, denied that “correct” was normative…
    So – how to distinguish between correctness conditions that apply to attitudes in virtue of contents and ones that apply merely in virtue of their natures: well, to think about this, we should look into philosophical discussions of correctness elsewhere. Where do such discussions come up? In the Wrong Kind of Reasons problem. Truth is the norm of correctness for belief, and there is an old problem distinguishing the “right kind” (epistemic) of reasons for belief from the “wrong kind” (pragmatic ones). The same distinction comes up with respect to admiration and amusement, and there is quite a bit of literature about it at the moment.
    All of the literature that I know about right now assumes that these distinctions only apply to mental states, and they only apply to mental states that have some kind of content. So Parfit talks about the state-given vs object-given distinction, D’Arms and Jacobson talk about emotions representing things as being a certain way, Pamela Hieronymi talks about reasons as having to bear on a question, and so on. This can all make it seem like correctness has to be explained in terms of contents, very broadly speaking – at least, they only come up for mental states.
    But that’s false. There are norms of correctness, which give rise to wrong kind of reasons issues, that apply to things without contents. There are correct and incorrect moves to make in chess, for example, and that doesn’t change if an evil demon threatens your life unless you castle through a square that is under attack.
    Whereever the norms of correctness of chess come from, they don’t come from the truth-conditions of their contents. So that makes it highly plausible that however norms of correctness work, the full explanation is going to be more fundamental than looking at truth-conditions of contents. And if that is so, then why couldn’t it turn out that the noncognitive attitudes expressed by moral sentences have correctness conditions as well, even though they don’t have truth-conditional contents?
    So here’s a coherent view: cognitivism about correctness, expressivism about morality, and the view that there are norms of correctness on the attitudes expressed by moral sentences. I think you could probably develop a sophisticated twist on this view where you turned out to be an expressivist about correctness, anyway and to boot, but I’m not sure. It’s an interesting idea. It would definitely still be a version of expressivism

  14. David Velleman and I try to give a sketch of an expressivist view of correctness (and thus belief ascriptions) in ‘Doxastic Deliberation.’ The worry I now have (stated above and based on my interpretation of what Jamie says in his discussion of Blackburn) is that it will be difficult to even state this view if the noncognitive state that is expressed in judgments of correctness must itself be understood in normative terms, either in terms of its own correctness condition or in terms of other norms that govern it, such as the norms of rationality. If I’m not mistaken, Jamie also suggested a solution to this problem in his discussion of Blackburn, which I’m not sure I understood. But I’d sure be happy it if he were right!

  15. There’s also the possibility to construct the content of the claims and corresponding mental states from the fundamental norms of correct use and not from their truth-conditions. This is what those influenced by Wittgenstein do. Of course, you can then afterwards give truth-conditions for the claims but they will be deflationist and non-informative. All of this seems to be compatible with the view that the mental states that constitute the acceptance of these claims are motivational and that the claims are used to express also these attitudes.

  16. Jussi,
    Sorry, I should have been clearer. My thought is that correctness is a genus of which truth is the species for beliefs. And that while believing that p is true is just believing that p, it is not so that (say) regarding an intention that p as correct is the same as intending that p. Again, weakness of will is the obvious case.
    I should have been more circumspect in trying to lay out the tracking problem for expressivists, too. My thought was that whereas Aquinas, say, thought that desire was necessarily for the good, so that in a healthy mental ecology desires for known non-goods would be extinguished (thus, Thomistic desire is good-tracking) you do not get views like this from contemporary expressivists.
    (I’ll be grateful for anyone who thinks they can express this better than I can, to chip in.)
    Mark,
    This could probably be a different post, but here’s why I think ‘correctness’ poses a problem for expressivism. One might want to say something like
    The claim ‘Murder is wrong’ expresses an attititude A toward murder; and
    Murder is wrong iff A-ing (murder) is correct.
    Now, if “…is correct” is a descriptive predicate, then it seems to me we have just given necessary and sufficient conditions for murder being wrong; that is, this is realism. If alternatively “…is correct” is something that requires an expressivist analysis, then we run the same pattern:
    The claim ‘A-ing (murder) is correct’ expresses an attitude B toward A-ing (murder); and
    A-ing (murder) is correct iff [um, what?] B-ing (A-ing (murder) ) is correct [?]
    Either this is now realism, which percolates up; or it’s viciously circular about correctness; or we provide some other non-circular analysis of correctness, and correctness isn’t a fundamental part of the theory.
    Everybody,
    which On-Blackburn paper of Jamie’s are we talking about?

  17. Sorry, the paper of Jamie’s I was referring to was “The Expressivist Circle: Invoking Norms in the Explanation of Normative Judgment”, Philosophy and Phenomenlogical Research 45:1, 136-143.

  18. Heath,
    this is really interesting. I’m still confused about the difference between truth and correctness. This is what you say:
    “And that while believing that p is true is just believing that p, it is not so that (say) regarding an intention that p as correct is the same as intending that p.”
    I think the explanation is that one the left you have two beliefs with the same content where as you have on the right an attitude about an attitude and just a first-order attitude. Obviously they cannot be the same.
    Start from the left hand side. It’s easy to explain that feature of truth by changing notation to distinguish the content:
    belief (‘p’ is true) = belief (p)
    This is because ‘p’ is true iff p allows us to substitute.
    But the same can be done with intentions.
    Intending (‘p’ is true) is intending (p)
    for the very same reason. This gets slightly tricky grammatically but this seems to be correct:
    Intending (that I drink a beer) = Intending (‘that I drink beer’ is true).
    These seem to be the same intentions.
    In addition I can believe that some beliefs are true without having those beliefs. I can believe that the beliefs Einstein had about the fundamental, physical nature of universe are true without having those beliefs about the universe. I don’t even know what they are but I might trust him.

  19. Heath – I agreed with you in my original comment in this thread that the kinds of assumptions that would be needed to motivate such a view are incompatible with the assumptions typically used to motivate expressivism. It still looks like a novel view to me. According to it, moral thoughts motivate because they are desire-like – they aren’t beliefs that somehow motivate contrary to the Humean Theory of Motivation, nor are they besires – both beliefs and desires. They are just desires.
    Nevertheless, the theory goes, they have correctness conditions. Thinking murder is wrong is not thinking that it is correct to disapprove of murder; it is just disapproving of murder. But it turns out that there are conditions – we can call them a generalization of truth-conditions, if you like – under which it is a mistake or not to disapprove of murder. (Namely, the conditions under which it is wrong.) Metaphysically, it is a realist view and will have to explain the same things – in that I agree with you – but in the philosophy of mind, it is purely non-cognitivist. I don’t know of anyone who has developed such a view, and I wouldn’t like it, myself, but it seems like an interesting and distinct option.

  20. The view Mark describes seems reminiscent of Franz Brentano’s. On his view, to think that x is good is to love x. To say that x is good is to say that loving x is (would be) correct (‘richtig’). Correctness as predicated of conative attitudes is supposed to be (as Brentano said) “analogous to truth” as predicated of the cognitive attitudes (yes, Brentano probably thought that cognitive attitudes (beliefs) are bearers of truth-value).

  21. It’s also an option Miller and Divers develop from Wright’s minimalism. Wright’s minimalist begins from the norms of correct use of moral sentences – the standards for correctness of the claims. From them she gets minimal content, minimal assertions, minimal truth, minimal facts, and minimal beliefs (the acceptance of the claims). The Jackson, Oppy Smith objection goes that the platitude that leads from minimally truth-apt content to beliefs commit to robust Humean beliefs. But, Miller and Divers claim that what you get at the end of the platitudes is merely a minimal belief as the state of acceptance of the claim and that in the technical Humean vocubulary it is still an open question whether these states are more like motivational desires or inert, robustly representational states like beliefs. As far as the norms of correctness go in the discourse, they do not determine this pshychological question.

  22. Oh boy. WHat a lot has got itself written here since my tiny two-pennyworth a day or two back when I last looked…
    I doubt I have much to add to the very sharp things others – notably Jussi – have said. One wee point.
    Imagine you and I are in conflict over something. It is a nice issue of justice which of our wills should prevail. Here are two solutions to the problem.
    1. We go ask our friend Kind Solomon the Wise to adjudicate. When it comes to admirable moral sensibilities old Solomon has just about the best you’ll find anywhere. And he is reliably impartial.
    2. Trial by combat. We meet in a field somewhere and have a fight. The view of the winner prevails.
    1 is a pretty good idea. 2 is a rubbish idea. Why so. Well, we might say, 1 tracks justice and 2 does not. For the judgements of Solomon covary pretty relaibly with what justice demands while the outcome of fights covaries only with morally irrelevant stuff about which of us is bigger and stronger.
    1 tracks justice, 2 does not. If we have a modestly minimalist take on truth it’s an innocent enough piece of semantic ascent to say 1 tracks the truth about justice and 2 does not. All this is normative as can be; but the norms doing the work are substantively ethical, rather than epistemic or semantic.

Comments are closed.