Expressivism and the T-Schema

Expressivist like Blackburn like to invoke deflationary accounts of truth as a way to save the common sense intuition that moral judgements can be straightforwardly true or false. I have elsewhere argued that this strategy fails to absolve the espressivist from giving an account of justification and, without some kind of modification, the expressivist is committed to relativism. Blackburn’s expressivism collapses into pure autobiography.

Here is another way to make the argument. Take the following claim: Eating meat is immoral. According to the deflationist this will be true just in case eating meat is immoral. This can be put in terms of the T-Schema as so,

“Eating meat is immoral’ is true if and only if eating meat is immoral

But what are to make of the right hand side of this bi-conditional? We cannot take it as naming some fact according to the expressivist. It seems we must, then, give it the expressivist meaning. Doing so yeilds the B-schema

“Eating meat is immoral’ is true if and only if Boo eating meat

This makes it clear that deflationsim about truth cannot help the Blackburns of the world avoid giving a real theory of moral justification.

Or is there some other interpretationof the right hand side of the bi-conditional?

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6 thoughts on “Expressivism and the T-Schema

  1. I totally agree Richard, I’ve never understood how deflationism is supposed to save face for expressivism, it seems like the resulting view just collapses back into Ayeresque expressivm for the reasons you mention.

  2. Hey Colin thanks for the comment and the support…I thought that this was all so obvious that I must be missing something equally obvious…nice to find out that I am not the only one!

  3. Hey Richard,

    It’s your old buddy Kris from CUNY.

    A agree with your conclusion– somethin’s wrong with minimalism and the right hand side of the schema.

    However, these deflationists are awful slippery. They’re going to say that ‘Eating meat is immoral’ may name or refer to some fact or it might not. Doesn’t matter. Rather, they’ll say that whether the claim ‘Eating meat is immoral’ is true doesn’t turn on whether it refers.

    At this point I usually kick the deflationist in the balls, thereby winning the argument.

  4. Hey Kris! Nice to hear from you and thanks for the comment!

    The deflationist may say that, but the expressivist can’t. And that’s all I wanted to draw attention to. Deflationary accounts of truth can’t save expressivism from relativism…as for your argumentive strategy; remind me never to disagree with you!!! 😉

  5. Hey Richard,

    Yeah it’s good to hear from you. And congrats on finishing the ol’ PhD and on your position.

    Can’t the expressivist make a move that’s exactly like the deflationists defense: Whether ‘eating meat is immoral’ names a fact or expresses an emotion is irrelevant as to its truth. As long as you accept ‘eating meat is immoral’, you’re willing to say it, behave in accordance with it, etc., then who cares if it names a fact or expresses a feeling?

    Again, I think you’re right on this, but it’s really hard to come up with a knock out argument here. No?

  6. Thanks Kris! I still kinda can’t believe it…

    I think there are two different questions here, so we may be crossing our wires a bit. Let’s seperate them out.

    (1) Can the sentence ‘eating meat is immoral’ be true?

    the expressivist can answer this question in the way that you indicate. Whether it refers or not the T-schema gives us the rule which governs its truth.

    (2) Can the fact that the T-schema lets us say that the sentence is true save the expressivist from some kind of relativism?

    This is the question that I am claiming the expressivist cannot answer in the affirmative. When you take the expressivist seriously we see that saying that the sentence is true is really just to say that you have the appropriate non-cognitive attitude; so the expressivist just has the standard Ayerian relativistic account of the justification of moral judgments. The T-schema creates a smoke screen that expressivist hide behind but it doesn’t really help them in the way that the claim that it does.

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