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Propositions and Nondescriptivism in Metaethics

Brown, JLD; (2017) Propositions and Nondescriptivism in Metaethics. Masters thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access


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This thesis seeks to reconcile two theoretical perspectives: nondescriptivist approaches to metaethics, and propositional approaches to semantic content. Metaethical nondescriptivism maintains that moral language is in some important sense nondescriptive or nonrepresentational. Fundamentally, such language does not serve to describe how the world is. Rather, it should be understood in terms of its nondescriptive functional role in our cognitive economy and social intercourse. It is often thought that nondescriptivism implies the denial of moral propositions or propositional contents. That is, it denies that moral sentences have propositions as their contents, that moral propositions are the objects of attitudes such as belief, and that there are moral propositions that are true or false. This denial leads to a number of very serious problems in providing an adequate account of the semantics of moral language. This thesis argues that the nondescriptivist should reject the assumption that nondescriptivism implies denying moral propositions a place in one's theory of moral language. This assumption presupposes a descriptive or representational conception of propositions that is unavailable to the nondescriptivist. The nondescriptivist should therefore accommodate moral propositions by providing a suitably nondescriptive conception of propositions. The thesis examines in detail three recent attempts in the literature to realise this reconciliation. It is argued that none of the approaches are successful. However, it is nonetheless suggested that the discussion highlights how the nondescriptivist has a wide range of theoretical resources with which to argue for propositional nondescriptivism, providing possible grounds for optimism.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Title: Propositions and Nondescriptivism in Metaethics
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1537288
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