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Confusion of TonguesA Theory of Normative Language$
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Stephen Finlay

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199347490

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199347490.001.0001

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A Disagreeable Problem

A Disagreeable Problem

(p.207) 8 A Disagreeable Problem
Confusion of Tongues

Stephen Finlay

Oxford University Press

Relational theories of normative language face special problems in accounting for the extent of normative disagreement. This chapter argues first that this is everybody’s problem, because normative sentences are relativized to different information in contexts of deliberation and advice. Then it shows that the end-relational theory provides a pragmatic solution, accounting for some disagreements as involving inconsistent preferences rather than beliefs. This solution is shown to be superior to the semantic solution offered by expressivism, as it accounts for a wider range of disagreements and avoids the expressivist’s problem with negation. This pragmatic account extends to fundamental disagreements involving preferences for different ends. Three different kinds of normative disagreement are distinguished: instrumental, rational, and outright. Other topics discussed include the asymmetry of disagreement, speech, belief, and knowledge reports, and evaluations of truth and falsity.

Keywords:   disagreement, advice, expressivism, negation, belief, knowledge, truth, asymmetry

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