Supervenience, Repeatability, & Expressivism

Noûs 54 (3):578-599 (2020)
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Abstract

Expressivists traditionally explain normative supervenience by saying it is a conceptual truth. I argue against this tradition in two steps. First, I show the modal claim that stands in need of explanation has been stated imprecisely. Classic arguments in metaethics for normative supervenience and those that rely on it as a premise presuppose a constraint on the supervenience base that is rarely (if ever) made explicit: the repeatability of the non-normative properties on which the normative supervenes. Non-normative properties are repeatable when it is possible for numerically distinct individuals to share them. Second, I show if the modal truth that stands in need of explanation entails that there are individuals exactly alike in repeatable non-normative respects that cannot normatively differ, then standard expressivist accounts of normative supervenience as a conceptual truth are unsuccessful. Expressivist metasemantics for normative terms, together with constitutive facts about the non-cognitive attitudes essentially involved in normative thought, strongly suggest that repeatable supervenience could not be a conceptual truth. I argue, finally, that although repeatable supervenience bears the marks of a conceptual truth, expressivists should be content to treat it as an ordinary normative truth, and to explain it the same way they explain other normative truths.

Author's Profile

Emad H. Atiq
Cornell University

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