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Stephen Finlay
University of Southern California
  1. The Reasons That Matter.Stephen Finlay - 2006 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 84 (1):1 – 20.
    Bernard Williams's motivational reasons-internalism fails to capture our first-order reasons judgements, while Derek Parfit's nonnaturalistic reasons-externalism cannot explain the nature or normative authority of reasons. This paper offers an intermediary view, reformulating scepticism about external reasons as the claim not that they don't exist but rather that they don't matter. The end-relational theory of normative reasons is proposed, according to which a reason for an action is a fact that explains why the action would be good relative to some end, (...)
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  2. The Error in the Error Theory.Stephen Finlay - 2008 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (3):347-369.
    Moral error theory of the kind defended by J. L. Mackie and Richard Joyce is premised on two claims: (1) that moral judgements essentially presuppose that moral value has absolute authority, and (2) that this presupposition is false, because nothing has absolute authority. This paper accepts (2) but rejects (1). It is argued first that (1) is not the best explanation of the evidence from moral practice, and second that even if it were, the error theory would still be mistaken, (...)
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  3. Metaethical Contextualism Defended.Gunnar Björnsson & Stephen Finlay - 2010 - Ethics 121 (1):7-36.
    We defend a contextualist account of deontic judgments as relativized both to (i) information and to (ii) standards or ends, against recent objections that turn on practices of moral disagreement. Kolodny & MacFarlane argue that information-relative contextualism cannot accommodate the connection between deliberation and advice; we suggest in response that they misidentify the basic concerns of deliberating agents. For pragmatic reasons, semantic assessments of normative claims sometimes are evaluations of propositions other than those asserted. Weatherson, Schroeder and others have raised (...)
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  4. Value and Implicature.Stephen Finlay - 2005 - Philosophers' Imprint 5:1-20.
    Moral assertions express attitudes, but it is unclear how. This paper examines proposals by David Copp, Stephen Barker, and myself that moral attitudes are expressed as implicature (Grice), and Copp's and Barker's claim that this supports expressivism about moral speech acts. I reject this claim on the ground that implicatures of attitude are more plausibly conversational than conventional. I argue that Copp's and my own relational theory of moral assertions is superior to the indexical theory offered by Barker and Jamie (...)
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  5. Defining Normativity.Stephen Finlay - forthcoming - In Kevin Toh, David Plunkett & Scott Shapiro (eds.), Dimensions of Normativity: New Essays on Metaethics and Jurisprudence. Oxford University Press.
    This paper investigates whether different philosophers’ claims about “normativity” are about the same subject or (as recently argued by Derek Parfit) theorists who appear to disagree are really using the term with different meanings, in order to cast disambiguating light on the debates over at least the nature, existence, extension, and analyzability of normativity. While I suggest the term may be multiply ambiguous, I also find reasons for optimism about a common subject-matter for metanormative theory. This is supported partly by (...)
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  6. The Conversational Practicality of Value Judgement.Stephen Finlay - 2004 - The Journal of Ethics 8 (3):205-223.
    Analyses of moral value judgements must meet a practicality requirement: moral speech acts characteristically express pro- or con-attitudes, indicate that speakers are motivated in certain ways, and exert influence on others' motivations. Nondescriptivists including Simon Blackburn and Allan Gibbard claim that no descriptivist analysis can satisfy this requirement. I argue first that while the practicality requirement is defeasible, it indeed demands a connection between value judgement and motivation that resembles a semantic or conceptual rather than merely contingent psychological link. I (...)
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  7. Too Much Morality.Stephen Finlay - 2007 - In Paul Bloomfield (ed.), Morality and Self-Interest. Oxford University Press.
    This paper addresses the nature and relationship of morality and self-interest, arguing that what we morally ought to do almost always conflicts with what we self-interestedly ought to do. The concept of morality is analyzed as being essentially and radically other-regarding, and the category of the supererogatory is explained as consisting in what we morally ought to do but are not socially expected to do. I express skepticism about whether there is a coherent question, ‘Which ought I all things considered (...)
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  8. Conceptual Analysis in Metaethics.N. G. Laskowski & Stephen Finlay - 2017 - In Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics. Routledge. pp. 536-551.
    A critical survey of various positions on the nature, use, possession, and analysis of normative concepts. We frame our treatment around G.E. Moore’s Open Question Argument, and the ways metaethicists have responded by departing from a Classical Theory of concepts. In addition to the Classical Theory, we discuss synthetic naturalism, noncognitivism (expressivist and inferentialist), prototype theory, network theory, and empirical linguistic approaches. Although written for a general philosophical audience, we attempt to provide a new perspective and highlight some underappreciated problems (...)
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  9. Disagreement Lost and Found.Stephen Finlay - 2017 - In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, vol. 12. Oxford University Press. pp. 187-205.
    According to content-relativist theories of moral language, different speakers use the same moral sentences to say different things. Content-relativism faces a well-known problem of lost disagreement. Recently, numerous content-relativists (including the author) have proposed to solve this problem by appeal to various kinds of non-content-based, or broadly pragmatic, disagreement. This presents content-relativists with a new problem—of found agreement. Which (if any) of these newly identified kinds of conflict is correctly identified as the lost moral disagreement we were looking for? This (...)
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  10. Responding to Normativity.Stephen Finlay - 2007 - In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Volume 2. Clarendon Press. pp. 220--39.
    I believe that normative force depends on desire. This view faces serious difficulties, however, and has yet to be vindicated. This paper sketches an Argument from Voluntary Response, attempting to establish this dependence of normativity on desire by appeal to the autonomous character of our experience of normative authority, and the voluntary character of our responses to it. I first offer an account of desiring as mentally aiming intrinsically at some end. I then argue that behaviour is only voluntary if (...)
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  11.  65
    Quasi-Expressivism About Statements of Law: A Hartian Theory.Stephen Finlay & David Plunkett - forthcoming - In John Gardner, Leslie Green & Brian Leiter (eds.), Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Law, vol. 3. Oxford University Press.
    Speech and thought about what the law is commonly function in practical ways, to guide or assess behavior. These functions have often been seen as problematic for legal positivism in the tradition of H.L.A. Hart. One recent response is to advance an expressivist analysis of legal statements (Toh), which faces its own, familiar problems. This paper advances a rival, positivist-friendly account of legal statements which we call “quasi-expressivist”, explicitly modeled after Finlay’s metaethical theory of moral statements. This consists in a (...)
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