講題: Semantics for moral discourse: why contextualism is still not dead
時間：2018/11/14 (Wednesday) 15:10
For these twenty years, irrealist — expressivist, relativist, fictionalist, etc. — semantics for moral discourse has
been much more developed than before and getting more and more popular among philosophers. The controversies
have been revolving around the disagreement problem, that is, the problem that moral irrealism seems incapable
of explaining why we can disagree over ethical matters instead of simply talking past. Currently, there seems
to be a consensus that semantic contextualism relativising semantic content of moral discourse to the speaker, of
which the simple subjectivism and Gilbert Harman’s conventionalist theory are instances, is the least plausible of
irrealist theories for the reason that it has insurmountable difficulty in solving the disagreement problem. Recently,
new alternative semantics such as semantic relativism, which relativises truth of moral statements to the speaker
or the assessor, has been proposed as theoretical improvement over crude contextualism and the proponents (e.g.
Berit Brogaard etc.) claim they can explain why we don’t talk past but disagree over ethical matters even when
there is no cognitive faults among us.
Contrary to appearances, however, it seems to me that contextualism, when sophisticated enough, can explain
the phenomena of moral disagreement at least as well as — or as badly as, if you like — those alternative theories.
If this is the case, they are no more plausible than contextualism and this shows that the recent development in
irrealist semantics doesn’t move the debate between realists and irrealists forward from the present impasse, or so
I will argue.