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Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 1 MT10

Event Name Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 1 MT10
Start Date 11th Oct 2010 4:30pm
End Date 11th Oct 2010 6:30pm
Duration 2 hours

Michael Ridge (Edinburgh)

"Relocating Normative Thought and Discourse" to be held in the Lecture Room, 10 Merton Street, Oxford - Seminars in Moral Philosophy webpage


A traditional approach to meta-normative theory is to identify normative claims as claims in which certain distinctive words are used – words like ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘ought’, ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘reason’ and the like. Normative judgments, in turn, are identified as the judgments expressed by such claims. When it is pointed out that these words very often seem to be used in making claims which do not seem to be normative in the intendes sense, a common reply is simply to say that in those contexts the words are being used in some alternative non-normative sense. I argue that this free and easy invocation of multiple senses of these terms is highly problematic, and develop and defend a more unified semantic treatment which avoids any such appeal. I provide a semantic theory according to which each of these terms is an incomplete predicate with a variable for a kind of standard, where this variable is provided by a context of utterance. My approach is deeply indebted to Kratzer's orthodox view of modals in linguistics, but also differs in very important ways from her treatment. Finally, I argue that the contexts in which these terms are used to make normative claims are ones in which the standards in question are (typically implicitly) glossed in terms of the idea of acceptable standards in a sense of 'acceptable' which in turn adverts to the idea of wisdom. I here explain how this way of “relocating” the normative in this way preserves the traditional questions of meta-ethics and meta-normative theory, albeit in a different and broader semantic framework than that presupposed by more traditional "ambiguist" (to borrow a term from Roger Wertheimer) meta-ethical and meta-normative theorists.

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