Thanks to Brad Cokelet and the PEA Soup crew for the invitation to join an illustrious line-up!
Earlier this year my first book was published (Confusion of Tongues: A Theory of Normative Language, OUP). In the first part, I offer unifying semantic analyses for central, thin normative terms ‘good’, ‘ought’, and ‘reason’ (an “end-relational” theory). In the second part, I argue that when supplemented with a sensitivity to pragmatics, this theory solves many central problems of metaethics, including puzzles about practicality, categoricity, final value, and disagreement. A general theme is that metaethical puzzles largely result from philosophers’ confusion about our own language.
I’m very happy here to discuss any questions or objections readers might have. However, I thought I’d use the opportunity to focus particularly on meta-metaethical issues about philosophical method, as I’m currently trying to finish a paper for a volume on empirical approaches to metaethics (eds. Cuneo & Loeb), loosely based around a chapter I cut from the book at the last moment. I’m sticking my neck out here, because I don’t have broad expertise in metaphilosophy, so probably some or much of what I say is naive. But it seems an ideal topic for a blog discussion (honoring Sobel’s “plea for half-assedness”). I enthusiastically welcome any suggestions of work I should be reading or citing, including your own.
“The Empirical Armchair”
I argue that a particular kind of armchair, analytic method is at once (i) a viable, and (ii) an empirical approach to answering metaethical questions about the nature of normative properties. I also suggest it is (iii) uniquely apt, and (iv) the dominant actual method, despite what metaethicists may claim to be doing. (Hopefully that rattles a few chains).