Revisiting my Dissertation

Nine years ago I defended My dissertation and then I promptly forgot about it. Part of the reason was that I was distracted with the Shombie Wars (believe me, I *never* expected to write a paper on zombies!) and starting Consciousness Online but the biggest part of the story was that I was sick of working on it. I had spent two years writing it officially but I had had the core idea for the dissertation in 2002 (developing ideas I had from my days as an undergraduate) and had written several versions of it for various seminars I had taken. By the time I had decided to pursue this as my dissertation project I had already been working on it (off and on) for 4 years. So after six years of reading, re-reading, writing, and re-writing I had a hard time even thinking about this material!

Looking back on it now I think the main “result” still stands up. Just after I defended hybrid expressionist views became popular and I thought that maybe I had been scooped  (more than I already had been by Blackstone!) but no one has developed, or even seemed to notice, the kind of hybrid view I formulate and defined (i.e. one where the speech act in moral discourse involves expressing an emotion and, at the same time, the belief that the emotion is the correct one to have towards the relevant state of affairs moral character, etc)…though to be honest I have grown more out of touch with the literature on metaethics…so maybe there is some devastating objection I am not aware of?

At some point I may try to look into it but in the meantime below are links to the blog posts I wrote while working on the dissertation.

  1. Introducing Frigidity
  2. What Kripke Really Thinks
  3. The Meaning and Use of ‘is True’
  4. Truth, Justification, and the Quasi-Realist Way
  5. Meaning and Justification
  6. A Simple Argument for Moral Realism
  7. Emotive Realism
  8. Truth and Necessity
  9. Varieties of Rigidity
  10. Devitt on the A Priori 
  11. Meta-Metaethics and the NJRPA
  12. Emotive Realism Ch. 1
  13. Emotive Realism Ch. 2
  14. Some Moral Truths are Analytic
  15. (Finally) Responding to Roman
  16. Moral Truthmakers
  17. Empiricism as the Default Position
  18.  Introducing Dr. Richard Brown

Emotive Realism Ch. 2

Here is the (rough draft) of the second chapter of the dissertation. Again, comments are welcome!

Emotive Realism Ch. 2 –Language and Metaethics

A propos of all the recent discussion of Berkeley, here is an excerpt

It had been long recognized that language can be used to do more than to merely describe the world. This is explicit in Berkeley, especially in Section 20 of the Introduction to his Principles (Berkeley 1710/1998). He there says,

Besides, the communicating of ideas marked by words is not the chief and only end of language, as is commonly supposed. There are other ends, as the raising of some passion, the exciting to, or deterring from an action, the putting the mind in some particular disposition…I entreat the reader to reflect with himself, and see if it doth not often happen either in hearing or reading a discourse, that the passions of fear, love, hatred, admiration, disdain, and the like arise, immediately in his mind upon the perception of certain words, without any ideas coming between (p 99)

He even suggests that ‘good’ and ‘danger’ are examples of words that do not stand for ideas but rather serve to excite passions or exhort to action. This is mentioned in Warnock’s Ethics since 1900 (Warnock 1960, p 64) but what she does not point out is that Berkeley is much more radical than this. He goes on in Section 20 to argue that even proper names “do not seem always spoken, with a design to bring into our view the Ideas of those individuals that are supposed to be marked by them.” Sometimes they are used “to dispose me to embrace his opinion,” as when I say that Aristotle held some view simply as a way of getting you to accept it. So, it had been a long standing view in the empiricist tradition that language could be used in ways that went contrary to their meanings and for more subtle purposes than to describe the world.