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Matthew Chrisman
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And this one is addressed at Mike re. imperatives: I think expressivists (and everyone else!) should agree that one of the important things we do with moral language (and all other language!) is to express our minds; and we should also all agree that this not all we do with language. My skepticism about trying to explain all of the semantic and logical properties of sentences (my focus above was imperatives but I think this is also true of declaratives and interrogatives) in terms of properties of psychological states is that this just pushes the bump in the rug: what then explains why those psychological states have the intentional and logical properties that they do? Maybe sometimes it has to do with their representational purport, but I'm inclined to think that this cannot be the most general answer (because many mental states don't have representational purport).
Sorry, this is mainly directed at Mark re. imperatives: I totally agree that expressivists (and everyone else!) should associate declarative sentences with genuine contents - the kinds of thing that can be the objects of attitudes like belief and desire, and the bearers of truth and falsity. One can of course hope, fear, prefer, etc. that stealing is wrong; and in that case there better be something that one hopes, fears, prefers, etc. (Personally I've always thought those contents should be explained in terms of their inferential roles rather than their representational purports.) What I meant to gesture at in invoking imperatives was merely that I think we should also associate genuine contents with imperative sentences, though I suspect they're going to have to be of some different type than we associate with declarative sentences, e.g. they're not going to be bearers of truth and falsity (and I'm going to say that they have interestingly different inferential roles from declarative contents). Nonetheless, it seems that there's going to be something that it is for these contents to be inconsistent. And that's enough to warrant our thinking that not all inconsistency, not even all logical inconsistency has to be explained in terms of impossibility of conjoint truth. Although some normative declaratives seem to me like they are inferentially related to imperatives, I don't think that means the expressivist should model inconsistency of normative declaratives on the inconsistency of imperatives. Whatever we say about permission-style imperatives like "Have an apple!", I'm with you here: you cannot hope, fear, doubt, prefer, etc. something imperativial, but you can hope, fear, doubt, prefer, etc. inconsistent things, including inconsistent normative things. However, the fact that (logical) inconsistency is not in general a matter of impossibility of conjoint truth made me skeptical of the assumptions that seemed to be in the background of the disagreement with B&W. Jack's comment above makes me think I may have misunderstood what these assumptions are. For what it's worth, I think your account of the inconsistency of imperatives is going to have to be more complicated. "Bill, kiss Lucy!" and "Lucy, don't be kissed by Bill!" are not mutually satisfiable but it's not obvious that they are inconsistent, at least not logically inconsistent.
Hello Derek, Jack, Mark (and everyone else). There is something puzzling to me about the dispute here. All parties seem to accept that a set of sentences is inconsistent iff all of its members cannot be jointly true. (That's B&W's third data point on p. 394 and it's reiterated in the first paragraph of S's precis.) Then the debate is about how expressivists should make sense of this and, more specifically, how they might do so in a way that allows us to mark a distinction between sentences that are logically inconsistent, semantically inconsistent, and inconsistent in some other way. What is puzzling me is that I would have thought that we need a notion of semantic inconsistency, indeed even a stronger notion of logical inconsistency that doesn't turn on truth. If you have two PhD supervisors and one says (1) Submit this paper to Ethics now and at the same time the other says (2) No, revise it more first then haven't they disagreed with each other by saying something semantically inconsistent? ('Submit now' and 'revise more first' seem incompatible in virtue of their meanings.) Moreover, imagine further that the the second supervisor had instead said (3) No, do not send this paper to Ethics now then hasn't she said something logically inconsistent with (1)? Sentences (1) and (3) are inconsistent because of the logical form of these sentences and the meaning of the logical particle 'not'. Indeed we can mix and match declaratives and imperatives with logical relations. Someone who says: (4) If it's raining, bring an umbrella (5) It's raining (6) Don't bring an umbrella has said something that I'd want to class as logically inconsistent, but it doesn't look like this is something we could explain as A-type inconsistency of mental states. If this is right (and we don't want to say that imperatives are truth-apt), then clearly we're going to need something other than the realist explanation of semantic and logical inconsistency (e.g. in terms of when sentences can be conjointly true) in our overall theory of how language works. (Btw, this is a point made well by Charlow in a recent PhilStudies paper.) Maybe that's just a way of expressing surprise that anyone would have thought the realist explanation of logical and semantic inconsistency is going to be the only possible model. But I'm also skeptical that the best non-realist explanation of this is going to come from purely psychological properties of the mental states canonically expressed by the relevant sentences rather than something having to do with the kinds of moves they can be used to perform in different conversations. (It's not even clear that imperatives canonically express one kind of mental state, since they can be used to command, advise, suggest, entreat, forewarn, invite, offer, etc.)
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Jan 26, 2015