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Expressivism, Deflationism and Correspondence

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On an expressivist view, ethical claims are not fact stating; instead they serve the alternative function of expressing our feelings, attitudes and values. On a deflationary view, truth is not a property with a nature to be analyzed, but merely a grammatical device to aid us in endorsing sentences. Views on the relationship between expressivism and deflationism vary widely: they are compatible; they are incompatible; they are a natural pair; they doom one another. Here I explain some of these views, extract some necessary distinctions, and put these to use for understanding expressivism. I argue that contrary to the opinions of some, deflationism doesn’t help with problems of objectivity, knowledge and reasoning in ethics. I suggest alternative expressivist treatments of these problems, and show how expressivism as a metaethical view must have consequences for our ethical lives and beliefs. In particular it must affect the way we deal with ethical consistency—when norms or beliefs conflict—and ethical incompleteness—when ethical questions have no right answer.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1, Email: pmarino@uwaterloo.ca

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