AuthorMitchell, Steven Cole
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractIn my dissertation I argue that prominent descriptivist metaethical views face a serious semantic problem. According to standard descriptivism, moral thought and discourse purports to describe some ontology of moral properties and/or relations: e.g., the term `good' purports to refer to some property or cluster of properties. Central to any such theory, then, is the recognition of certain items of ontology which, should they actually exist, would count as the referents of moral terms and concepts. And since one commonly accepted feature of moral thought and discourse is a supervenience constraint, descriptivists hold that any ontology suitable for morality would have to supervene upon non-moral ontology. But this lands descriptivists with the task of providing a semantic account capable of relating this ontology to moral terms and concepts. That is, they must explain why it is that certain items of ontology and not others would count as the referents of moral terms and concepts, in a way that is consistent with the supervenience constraint. I argue that this important explanatory task cannot be carried out. And because the problem generalizes from metaethics to all normativity, we are left with good reason to pursue alternatives to descriptivist accounts of normative semantics.
Degree ProgramGraduate College