Masterclass with Sanna Hirvonen

March 23, 2018
with Sanna Hirvonen (Oxford)
23 March 2018

14.00-16.00, Room PN12

The LanCog masterclasses involve the discussion of drafts papers authored by LanCog student members with invited philosophers.

In the Masterclass with Sanna Hirvonen (Oxford) two draft papers were discussed and commented on: a draft paper by Diogo Santos, entitled “Asymmetry Explained” and a draft paper by Luís Veríssimo, entitled “How Expressivists Can’t Solve Their Problem With Negation”.
Asymmetry Explained
The retraction norm for assertions – an agent in context c2 is required to retract an (unretracted) assertion of p made at c1 if p is not true as used at c1 and assessed from c2 – is a key component to MacFarlane’s relativist proposal. Ferrari and Zeman (2014) identify an asymmetry concerning taste retraction and moral retraction that results from assessment-sensitivity and the retraction rule (and additional empirical data). I inquire if the asymmetry is in fact unexpected and, hence, if it demands “improvements” on MacFarlane’s proposal. I argue that the asymmetry is to be expected given the specific features of the discourse about matters of personal taste when compared to moral discourse and, hence, can be independently accounted for. Thus, it does not demand “improvements” in  MacFarlane’s proposal – contrary to what Ferrari and Zeman believe.
How Expressivists Can’t Solve Their Problem With Negation
In this paper I discuss the merits of Mark Schroeder’s solution to the Negation Problem. The Negation Problem might be considered a particular feature of the renowned Frege-Geach Problem (a.k.a., the Embedding Problem), a broader problem faced by metaethical theories under the non-cognitivist banner, such as expressivism. This problem consists in accounting for the inconsistency between any given moral claim and its negation within a non-cognitivist framework. Schroeder (2008a, 2008b) claims to have found a way to solve this problem which accounts for the notions of logical inconsistency, logical entailment and logic validity involved in the broader problem. According to his suggestion, any given moral sentence, like ‘murder is wrong’, is to be interpreted in terms of a general non-cognitive attitude, like being for, and a particular descriptive property or relation, like blaming for, directed at the referent of the sentence, in this case murder (or acts of murder). I think that his solution isn’t entirely satisfactory, because 1) it does not deal adequately with mixed discourses, i.e., complex
sentences with both descriptive and normative sub-sentences; 2) it does not account for the meaning of agnostic claims about the moral status of certain types of acts, such as expressed by ‘n1: Jon does not think that murder is wrong’; 3) it does not take into consideration the possibility of amoralism; and 4) it does not account for the logical relations between moral claims in an appropriate way.