The Metaethical Insignificance of Moral Twin Earth

In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics volume 11. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 1-27 (2016)
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Abstract

What considerations place genuine constraints on an adequate semantics for normative and evaluative expressions? Linguists recognize facts about ordinary uses of such expressions and competent speakers’ judgments about which uses are appropriate. The contemporary literature reflects the widespread assumption that linguists don’t rely upon an additional source of data—competent speakers’ judgments about possible disagreement with hypothetical speech communities. We have several good reasons to think that such judgments are not probative for semantic theorizing. Therefore, we should accord these judgments no probative value for the development of a semantics for our moral terms. Such judgments can no longer be presumed to put pressure on theories according to which our moral expressions share a semantics with ordinary, descriptive terms. Many rivals to pure, Descriptivist theories count among their advantages the ability to accommodate these judgments. If these judgments have no probative value, such theories lose an important source of support.

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