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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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Truth and the Expressing in Expressivism

Truth and the Expressing in Expressivism

(p.299) 13 Truth and the Expressing in Expressivism
Metaethics after Moore

Stephen Barker

Oxford University Press

This chapter proposes a new framework for metaethical expressivism that involves a combination of several elements. First, it claims that evaluative sentences are used to make genuine assertions, and so there are at least two types of assertion: reportive and expressive. Second, and following from the first, assertions of both sorts are truth-apt. Third, it is argued that all assertions are representational in that they purport to represent or describe some state of affairs. So, how do merely reportive assertions differ from expressive assertions? In response, the chapter proposes a pragmatic conception of truth according to which truth-bearers are sentences with representational content that are also used with an assertoric purpose. The idea is that the essential difference between reportive and expressive assertions is the purposes or intentions for which they are asserted: ‘in reportive assertions, speakers defend commitments to representational intentions; in expressive assertions speakers defend commitments to states [cognitive or conative] whose possession they have in fact represented’. In uttering a value sentence, for instance, one is expressing a desire (or related motivational state) that one is prepared to defend. The chapter explains how his form of expressivism can make sense of the various objectivist trappings of moral discourse, including its truth-aptness, logical embedding, and being subject to rational debate.

Keywords:   expressivism, reportive assertion, expressive assertion, descriptivism, representational assertions, conception of truth, assertoric purpose, objectivist, logical embedding

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