Noncognitivism and agent-centered norms

Philosophical Studies 179 (4):1019-1038 (2021)
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This paper takes up a neglected problem for metaethical noncognitivism: the characterization of the acceptance states for agent-centered normative theories like Rational Egoism. If Egoism is a coherent view, the non-cognitivist needs a coherent acceptance state for it. This can be provided, as Dreier and Gibbard have shown. But those accounts fail when generalized, assigning the same acceptance state to normative theories that are clearly distinct, or assigning no acceptance state to theories that look to be intelligible. The paper makes the case for this and then asks: What should we conclude if the problem cannot be solved? We might conclude that since Egoism is clearly a coherent view, the argument amounts to a refutation of noncognitivism. But we suggest another possibility. There is, on reflection, something incoherent, or at least odd, in standard formulations of Egoism; noncognitivism predicts this and so provides an intriguing explanation for this fact.

Author Profiles

Gideon Rosen
Princeton University
Alisabeth Ayars
University of British Columbia


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