Expressivism and Moore's Paradox

Philosophers' Imprint 14:1-12 (2014)
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Expressivists explain the expression relation which obtains between sincere moral assertion and the conative or affective attitude thereby expressed by appeal to the relation which obtains between sincere assertion and belief. In fact, they often explicitly take the relation between moral assertion and their favored conative or affective attitude to be exactly the same as the relation between assertion and the belief thereby expressed. If this is correct, then we can use the identity of the expression relation in the two cases to test the expressivist account as a descriptive or hermeneutic account of moral discourse. I formulate one such test, drawing on a standard explanation of Moore's paradox. I show that if expressivism is correct as a descriptive account of moral discourse, then we should expect versions of Moore's paradox where we explicitly deny that we possess certain affective or conative attitudes. I then argue that the constructions that mirror Moore's paradox are not incoherent. It follows that expressivism is either incorrect as a hermeneutic account of moral discourse or that the expression relation which holds between sincere moral assertion and affective or conative attitudes is not identical to the relation which holds between sincere non-moral assertion and belief. A number of objections are canvassed and rejected.

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Jack Woods
University of Leeds


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