Pragmatism, Quasi-realism and the Global Challenge



Expressivism is typically a local view. An expressivist about moral or aesthetic judgments will contrast these judgments to "genuinely" descriptive claims (such as those of science, perhaps). This contrast comes under pressure from several directions, however.

• Externally, it has been thought to be threatened by minimalism about truth, which—it is argued—leaves no room for the view that moral claims (say) are not really truth-evaluable. (If truth is "thin", then it seems easy for moral claims be truth-evaluable—it is sufficient that "X is good" is true iff X is good, and who disputes that?)

• Internally, it seems threatened by the quasi-realist program of explaining on expressivist foundations why non-descriptive claims "behave like" descriptive claims. If these explanations work in the hard cases, such as moral and aesthetic judgements, then surely they'll work in the easy cases, too—in which case the idea that the easy cases are genuinely descriptive seems an idle cog, not needed to explain the use of the statements in question.

As first sight, it may seem as though these pressures push in opposite directions. Doesn't the first threaten to make everything descriptive, and the second to make everything expressive? So a problem for a local expressivist either way, in other words, but a very different kind of problem, in each case.

On closer inspection, however, it turns out that both pressures push in the same direction, towards a form of pragmatism that might be characterised as global expressivism. Contrary to some claims, this position does not lead to a homogeneous view of language, unable to make the substantial claims that expressivists wanted to make about the function of particular domains of discourse. What's lost is simply the idea that there is a substantial descriptive or representational function, characteristic of some domains but not others.

In this paper we explore these ideas against the background of some remarks by Simon Blackburn.



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