Practical Cognitivism: An Essay on Normative Judgment
Kremm, Douglas Ray
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AbstractThis dissertation aims to recover two key insights that have animated the so-called “non-cognitivist” tradition in ethics – insights that have been continually distorted and obscured through attempts to express them in a theoretical framework that cannot accommodate them. The two key insights are, first, that ethical thinking is fundamentally practical in a way that rules out a substantially representationalist account of such thinking, and, second, that purely ontological questions about the nature and existence of certain sorts of entities (e.g., ethical properties and facts) are irrelevant to concerns about the objectivity of ethics. When properly understood, these ideas point toward a distinctive kind of metaethical view that I call ‘practical cognitivism’. This view understands ethical practice as the product of a distinctively practical kind of cognition, which we engage in by considering, adopting, rejecting, and carrying out practical commitments. Understanding ethical practice in this way allows us to place ethics in the natural world without distorting or undermining it, and it sheds light on a variety of phenomena that are of central importance to moral philosophy, such as normative guidance, akrasia, and the place of the emotions in ethical life.
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