An Empirical Argument against Moral Non-Cognitivism

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Abstract
According to non-cognitivism, moral sentences and judgements do not aim to represent how things morally are. This paper presents an empirical argument against this view. We begin by showing that non-cognitivism entails the prediction that after some reflection competent ordinary speakers’ semantic intuitions favor that moral sentences and judgements do not aim to represent how things morally are. At first sight, this prediction may seem to have been confirmed by previous research on folk metaethics. However, a number of methodological worries lead us to doubt this interpretation. We, therefore, conducted a psychological study that alleviates these worries as far as possible. It turned out that competent ordinary speakers’ reflective semantic intuitions dominantly fail to favor that moral sentences do not aim to represent how things morally are. This challenge to non-cognitivism is defended and supplemented by considering deflationary theories of moral truth and middle ground theories in the cognitivism/non-cognitivism debate.
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Archival date: 2020-07-24
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2020-07-24

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