Hybrid Views in Meta‐ethics: Pragmatic Views

Philosophy Compass 9 (12):848-863 (2014)
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A common starting point for ‘going hybrid’ is the thought that moral discourse somehow combines belief and desire-like aspects, or is both descriptive and expressive. Hybrid meta-ethical theories aim to give an account of moral discourse that is sufficiently sensitive to both its cognitive and its affective, or descriptive and expressive, dimensions. They hold at least one of the following: moral thought: moral judgements have belief and desire-like aspects or elements; moral language: moral utterances both ascribe properties and express desire-like attitudes. This entry concerns hybrid theories of moral language. The main division within such theories is between those treating the expression of desire-like attitudes as semantic and those treating it as pragmatic. This entry exclusively focuses on pragmatic forms of and examines the prospects for treating moral attitude expression as working via certain standard pragmatic mechanisms. I explain these mechanisms, outline the properties that standardly define them, and test to see whether moral attitude expression matches them. At the end, I briefly explain a more minimal pragmatic alternative. The main conclusions are that we should disregard presupposition and conventional implicature views and that the most plausible options for a pragmatic hybrid view are a generalised conversational implicature view and a more minimal pragmatic view.

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Guy Fletcher
University of Edinburgh


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