Normative Reference as a Normative Question

Erkenntnis (forthcoming)
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Normative naturalism holds that normative properties are identical with, or reducible to, natural properties. Various challenges to naturalism focus on whether it can make good on the idea that normative concepts can be used in systematically different ways and yet have the same reference in all contexts of use. In response to such challenges, some naturalists have proposed that questions about the reference of normative terms should be understood, at least in part, as normative questions that can be settled through normative inquiry. In this paper I have two goals. First, I argue that these naturalist proposals do not yet allow for radical disagreement on normative matters, or at least do not explain how such disagreement is possible. Secondly, I argue that, in order to account for radical disagreement, naturalists should not only treat normative reference as a normative issue but also adopt a non-representationalist account of normative concepts, on which such concepts are individuated through their practical role. I illustrate this point by showing how a view that combines naturalism and expressivism about normative discourse can vindicate the elasticity of normative concepts, their referential stability, and the objectivity of normative truths.

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Camil Golub
Rutgers University - Newark


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