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Being For: Evaluating the Semantic Program of Expressivism [Hardcover]

Mark Schroeder

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Book Description

5 Jun 2008
Expressivism - the sophisticated contemporary incarnation of the noncognitivist research program of Ayer, Stevenson, and Hare - is no longer the province of metaethicists alone. Its comprehensive view about the nature of both normative language and normative thought has also recently been applied to many topics elsewhere in philosophy - including logic, probability, mental and linguistic content, knowledge, epistemic modals, belief, the a priori, and even quantifiers.

Yet the semantic commitments of expressivism are still poorly understood and have not been very far developed. As argued within, expressivists have not yet even managed to solve the 'negation problem' - to explain why atomic normative sentences are inconsistent with their negations. As a result, it is far from clear that expressivism even could be true, let alone whether it is.

Being For seeks to evaluate the semantic commitments of expressivism, by showing how an expressivist semantics would work, what it can do, and what kind of assumptions would be required, in order for it to do it. Building on a highly general understanding of the basic ideas of expressivism, it argues that expressivists can solve the negation problem - but only in one kind of way. It shows how this insight paves the way for an explanatorily powerful, constructive expressivist semantics, which solves many of what have been taken to be the deepest problems for expressivism. But it also argues that no account with these advantages can be generalized to deal with constructions like tense, modals, or binary quantifiers. Expressivism, the book argues, is coherent and interesting, but false.

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[i]t is impossible not to admire Schroeder's book. It is, given its level of rigorous argument and technical detail, unsurpassed in the meta-ethical literature. (John Eriksson, The Philosophical Quarterly (Oct 2010))

An extremely impressive book equally remarkable for the power of its arguments, for its clarity and precision, and for its striking inventiveness and methodological rigour. Above all, there is one striking respect in which it rises head and shoulders above all recent contributions to these debates... [Schroeder] has articulated his version of expressivism in more precise detail than any of the avowed proponents of expressivism have ever done; and he never presents an objection to expressivism without deploying all of his formidable ingenuity to search for an expressivist response to the objection. In this way, he has taken the debate over the merits and demerits of expressivism to a new level of philosophical rigour and sophistication... In short, this is an absolutely terrific book. No one who wants to think carefully about the semantic program of expressivism can afford to give it anything less than their most serious attention. (Ralph Wedgwood, Analysis Reviews)

required reading for anyone with an interest in metaethics (Robert Mabrito, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews)

Expressivism has attracted a lot of attention recently and has several new and subtle defenders. This book is the first sustained and systematic critique of this popular position. It is extremely well done: clear, careful, and thorough. (Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Dartmouth College)

Schroeder's (Jamie Dreier, Brown University)

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is the most sophisticated investigation to date of the prospects for expressivist semantics. The book sets out and argues for a set of constraints on expressivist handling of the infamous "embedding problem", shows what a solution would look like, and explains the substantive commitments that such a solution must take on board. It is a philosophically serious and technically rigorous argument, and it establishes a kind of plateau from which future work on the subject will have to proceed.

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