Being For: Evaluating the Semantic Program of Expressivism

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Overview

Expressivism-the sophisticated contemporary incarnation of the noncognitivist research program of Ayer, Stevenson, and Hare-is no longer the province of metaethicists alone. Its comprehensive view about the nature of both normative language and normative thought has recently been applied to many topics elsewhere in philosophy-including logic, probability, mental and linguistic content, knowledge, epistemic modals, belief, the a priori, and even quantifiers.

Yet the semantic commitments of expressivism are still poorly understood and have not been very far developed. As argued within, expressivists have not yet even managed to solve the 'negation problem'-to explain why atomic normative sentences are inconsistent with their negations. As a result, it is far from clear that expressivism even could be true, let alone whether it is.

Being For seeks to evaluate the semantic commitments of expressivism, by showing how an expressivist semantics would work, what it can do, and what kind of assumptions would be required in order for it to do it. Building on a highly general understanding of the basic ideas of expressivism, it argues that expressivists can solve the negation problem-but only in one kind of way. It shows how this insight paves the way for an explanatorily powerful, constructive expressivist semantics, which solves many of what have been taken to be the deepest problems for expressivism. But it also argues that no account with these advantages can be generalized to deal with constructions like tense, modals, or binary quantifiers. Expressivism, the book argues, is coherent and interesting, but false.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An extremely impressive book — equally remarkable for the power of its arguments, for its clarity and precision, and for its striking inventiveness and methodological rigour. Above all, there is one striking respect in which it rises head and shoulders above all recent contributions to these debates.... [Schroeder] has articulated his version of expressivism in more precise detail than any of the avowed proponents of expressivism have ever done; and he never presents an objection to expressivism without deploying all of his formidable ingenuity to search for an expressivist response to the objection. In this way, he has taken the debate over the merits and demerits of expressivism to a new level of philosophical rigour and sophistication.... In short, this is an absolutely terrific book. No one who wants to think carefully about the semantic program of expressivism can afford to give it anything less than their most serious attention."— Ralph Wedgwood, Analysis Reviews

"[Q]uite impressive.... Being For [is] required reading for anyone with an interest in metaethics."—Robert Mabrito, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199534654
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 8/15/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 214
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Schroeder is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California, and author of Slaves of the Passions (OUP). His research ranges broadly across issues closely related to practical reason and metaethics, including on questions about reasons, rationality, normativity, reduction, moral explanations, metaethical expressivism, and the history of ethics.

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Table of Contents


Preface     ix
The Semantic Program of Expressivism
Introduction     3
Expression     16
Expressivists' Problems with Logic
The negation problem     39
Its solution     56
Composition and logic     65
Predicates and quantifiers     76
Descriptive Language
Descriptive language and belief     89
Biforcated attitude semantics     105
Assigning truth-conditions     120
An alternative approach     131
Extensions
Nondescriptivist semantics     151
The limits and costs of expressivism     164
References     188
Index     193
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