Getting a Moral Thing Into a Thought: Metasemantics for Non-Naturalists

In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics. Oxford University Press. pp. 140-169 (2020)
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Non-naturalism is the view that normative properties are response-independent, irreducible to natural properties, and causally inefficacious. An underexplored question for non-naturalism concerns the metasemantics of normative terms. Ideally, the non-naturalist could remain ecumenical, but it appears they cannot. Call this challenge the metasemantic challenge. This chapter suggests that non-naturalists endorse an epistemic account of reference determination of the sort recently defended by Imogen Dickie, with some modifications. An important implication of this account is that, if correct, a fully fleshed out moral epistemology will simultaneously rebut metasemantic objections to non-naturalism. Thus, both the metasemantic and the more widely discussed epistemological challenges in effect amount to one. Before setting out the positive view, the chapter considers why all of the traditional metasemantic theories cause trouble for the non-naturalist. This includes discussions of teleosemantics, conceptual role semantics, as well as Schroeter and Schroeter’s “connectedness” model.

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Preston Werner
Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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