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Metaethics after Moore$
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Terry Horgan and Mark Timmons

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199269914

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199269914.001.0001

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The Legacy of Principia

The Legacy of Principia

(p.233) 11 The Legacy of Principia
Metaethics after Moore

Judith Jarvis Thomson

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that the legacy in question is that the force of the open question argument, together with the rejection of the Moorean idea that there are non-natural properties, motivate two related claims: the no normative truth value thesis, according to which no normative sentences have truth value; and the expressivist thesis, that in uttering or thinking a normative sentence, what one does is express a favourable or unfavourable attitude toward the object of evaluation. The chapter explores two main sources of reason for rejecting the first thesis: appeals to minimalism about truth, and the so-called Frege–Geach problem. It argues that appeals to minimalism about truth are ultimately circular. However, the Frege–Geach problem represents a more serious challenge to those who embrace the no normative truth value thesis. Attempts — particularly by expressivists — to rebut this challenge falter, but rather than embrace the Moorean position (or any metaethical position that would countenance the property goodness, or rightness), the chapter denies the claim that ‘is good’ is a logical predicate. Rather, sentences of the form, ‘A is good’ are semantically incomplete and thus ‘is good’ is not (in the requisite sense) a logical predicate. Normative claims that predicate goodness or rightness in a way, as when someone claims that so and so is a good baseball player or that a certain move in chess was the right move to make, are predicating genuine properties that are arguably natural. If this is correct, then Moore's open question argument has misled philosophers to fix upon the pseudo-property of goodness.

Keywords:   G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica, open question argument, nonnatural properties, truth value thesis, expressivism, expressivist thesis, minimalism about truth, Frege–Geach problem, goodness

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