In his wonderful MORAL FICTIONALISM, which I’ve just happily read, Mark Kalderon defends a very interesting metaethical view. Kalderon holds two positions that are not usually conjoined. But I am not sure they can both be coherently held, although I don’t know whether I can articulate my worries very clearly.
First, Kalderon defends moral factualism. The content of a moral sentence is a truth-valued proposition, not an attitude or a commitment or anything else typically identified by nonrealists as the content of a moral sentence. Kalderon thus faces no Frege-Geach problem, since moral predicates in embedded contexts and those in freestanding contexts have identical meanings.
Second, Kalderon defends moral noncognitivism. To accept a moral sentence is not to believe it, but essentially involves a certain desire (the details of which don’t matter here). Likewise, to utter sincerely a moral sentence is not to assert it, but to quasi-assert it.
Putting these two points together, consider this chestnut:
P1 If lying is wrong, then getting one’s little brother to lie is wrong.
P2 Lying is wrong.
C Therefore, getting one’s little brother to lie is wrong.
Since Kalderon is a moral factualism, he (correctly) regards this argument as valid, just as ordinary moral cognitivists do. But since Kalderon is a moral fictionalist, he doesn’t think that in accepting P1, P2, and C, I am believing P1, P2, or C. I am accepting them in some other way. Still, it would seem that if I accept P1 and P2, and am entitled to do so (whatever that ends up amounting to), then I am entitled to accept C. (I hope that I have characterized his view accurately.)
Consider the following ‘mixed’ argument
P3 Murder is wrong and illegal.
C* Murder is illegal.
This argument is valid. So, if I accept P3, and am entitled to do so, I am entitled to accept C*. But the form of acceptance that’s involved in accepting P3 is very different from the form involved in accepting C*: the former involves a desire, the latter is a straightforward belief. But it strikes me as odd that I might be entitled to believe something on bases I am not entitled to believe.
Likewise, if I sincerely utter P3, and am entitled to do so, I am entitled to sincerely utter C*. But the kind of speech act that’s involved in uttering P3 is very different from the kind involved in uttering C*: the former is merely a quasi-assertion, the latter is an assertion. But it strikes me as odd that I might be entitled to assert something on bases I am not entitled to assert.
Kalderon emphasizes that we shouldn’t confuse the content of a moral sentence with the psychology of the speaker uttering it or accepting it. This is true. But there is still some connection between the content of a moral sentence (such as its logical relations to other sentences) and what the speaker is entitled to do with respect to it, given the speaker’s other entitlements.
So I am wondering whether moral fictionalism really does overcome the Frege-Geach problem faced by ordinary noncognitivists. Although it can explain why P3 implies C*, it seems unable to correctly explain why one is entitled to believe C* when one is entitled to accept P3. Or, that’s how I see it, but I wish I could articulate my concern better.