Institut Jean Nicod

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Séminaire de Métaéthique


Organisé conjointement par la République des Savoirs et l’IJN avec le soutien du labex TransferS,


Organisateurs : Monique Canto-Sperber (CNRS/ENS/République des Savoirs) et Stéphane Lemaire (Université de Rennes 1).

Les séances auront lieu

les mercredi à 15h au centre Cavaillès, 29 rue d’Ulm, école normale supérieure, Paris.


22 mai 2019

Matthew Bedke, University of British Columbia : "Naturalism and Normative Thought"


Normative thought seems rather important, even ineliminable. Communities that lack normative concepts like SHOULD, IS A REASON TO, JUSTIFIES, etc. seem to be missing something. And yet a popular metaethic, naturalism, entails that normative concepts and normative thinking is in principle eliminable. Here, I press this argument against naturalism, consider some replies by David Copp and Nicholas Laskowski, and suggest that a version of subjectivist naturalism does the best job preserving the importance and ineliminability of this special way of thinking. 


Past sessions


22 novembre 2017

James Lenman, University of Sheffield : « The politic of objectivity »


My project is to defend a modest possiblity claim. I think there could be a community of rational reasonable social animals who lived together in moral community regulating their lives by a complex system of broadly shared norms and values which they affirmed and adhered to. And I think it is possible for there to be such a community in a world in which the semantic, metaphysical and epistemological claims of robust moral realists were all false without the members of that community consequently falling into any errors or being subject to any illusions. If this possibility claim is true, that would, I take it, be dialectically rather bad news for those semantic, metaphysical and epistemological claims.


13 décembre 2017

Charles Larmore, Brown University : « La peur de la mort »


24 janvier 2018

Olivier Massin, CNRS/ Université de Zurich : « Grounding the normative »


There is a large consensus to the effect normative features (moral, legal, aesthetic, epistemic…) are somehow necessitated by and grounded in (i.e. explained by) non-normative ones (psychological, psychological, social…). The consensus cracks, however, when one tries to spell out how exactly normative features are so necessitated/grounded. One main recent locus of disagreement is found in the debate over whether the necessitation/grounding relation at stake is metaphysical, or constitutes a new sui generis form of normative necessitation/grounding. After having given an overview of that debate, I shall suggest that, depending on the cases, they are in fact many different ways in which the normative is necessitated by and grounded in the natural, so that looking for a single account of the necessitation/grounding relations between the natural and the normative may lead us astray.


14 Fevrier 2018

Nils Franzén, University of Uppsala : "Valuative discourse and emotive states of mind"


Expressivists maintain that evaluative discourse expresses desire-like states of mind in a similar way to how ordinary descriptive language expresses beliefs. Conjoining an ordinary assertion that p with the denial of being in the corresponding belief-state that p famously gives rise to Moorean infelicity :
(1) # It’s raining but I don’t believe that it’s raining.
If the expressivist is right then conjoining evaluative statements with the denial of being in the desire-like state of mind that is presumably expressed by such statements, should give rise to similar infelicity. However, as several theorists have pointed out, this does not seem to be the case. Statements like the following are not infelicitious :
(2) Murder is wrong but I don’t disapprove of it.
In this talk, I argue that evaluative discourse expresses the kind of states that are attributed by ‘find’- constructions in English (corresponding to ‘trouver que’ in French), and that these states are non-cognitive in nature. This addresses the problem of missing Moorean infelicity for expressivism, and it also tells us some interesting things about evaluative discourse in general.



14 mars 2018

David Enoch, Hebrew University of Jerusalem : “Consent, Autonomy, and Adaptive Preferences ; or : False Consciousness for Liberals, Part I”


Consent is both extremely important – it has profound normative implications – and often suspicious, as when the oppressed consent to the conditions of oppression, or when consent is given in light of adaptive preferences. In this paper I offer an account of adaptive preferences, what is wrong with them, and how they undermine at least some of the normative force of consent, at least some of the time. While political implications are not discussed here (hence the “Part I” in the title), they are where the discussion will eventually lead to.


4 avril 2018

Pekka Vayrynen, University of Leeds : « Normative Explanation and Justification »

La séance du 4 avril commencera exceptionnellement à 15h30.


Normative explanations are explanations of why something has a particular normative feature. Explanations of why things are wrong, good, or unfair are ubiquitous in ordinary normative practice and moral, political, and legal theory, and yet there is much less work on what makes for a correct normative explanation than on what makes for a correct scientific explanation. I argue that normative explanation is subject to a justification condition : roughly, a correct explanation of why a normative fact holds must, in some way, indicate that the actions or attitudes which that normative fact calls for are justified. This claim falls out of various theories of normative reasons and various characterizations of normative justification, and fits well with our ordinary normative practice. I also argue that this condition doesn’t make normative explanation discontinuous with non-causal explanations in other domains : it can be captured as a special case of a certain general feature of explanation, in particular its hyperintensionality. Thus I hope my discussion to cast light on the broader issue of how normative explanation may be similar to and different from explanation in other domains.


23 Mai 2018

La séance du 23 mai commencera exceptionnellement à 15h30, en salle Paul Langevin, 29 rue d’Ulm

Sergio Tenenbaum, University of Toronto : "Value Disagreement, Action, and Commitment"


The problem of disagreement is a well-known tool in the arsenal of various moral anti-realist and skeptical views. The fact of persistent disagreement about moral issues among different cultures, or different people in the same culture, is supposed to be evidence that our moral judgments do not track a realm of objective values. Moral realists and objectivists of various stripes have tried to answer these challenges. These philosophers often appeal to claims that the extent of disagreement is exaggerated and that similar forms of disagreement show up in other domains, or that some forms of moral realism or objectivism are immune to these challenges. I will not be concerned at all with these issues in this chapter ; I will be concerned with a different challenge raised by the fact of value disagreement, a challenge that has received significantly less attention in the philosophical literature.
Here is a very preliminary way to put the challenge : whether or not disagreement raises doubts about moral realism or objectivity, it should, at least under certain circumstances, lower our confidence in our evaluative judgments. But such lowering of confidence, if taken seriously, seems to leave us with no way to move from our judgments to actions ; neither is our usual commitment to morality in particular justified, nor is any particular course of action based on these evaluative judgments justified. The concern here is similar to the concern that theoretical skepticism might lead us to paralysis, but it turns out to be significantly more intractable, or so I’ll argue. In other words, our topic is not skepticism about the reality of values, but skepticism about rational action based on our evaluative judgment ; I will call this kind of skepticism “commitment skepticism”. My claim is that the most promising solution to commitment skepticism is to deny that first step and argue that some form of practical certainty resists the argument from disagreement. I argue that Kant’s view about our awareness of the moral law provides a way of accepting that at least an important core of our practical knowledge can warrant full commitment to action.


30 mai 2018

Michele Palmira , University of Barcelona & LOGOS Research Group : "How to Respond Rationally to Moral Disagreement"



In this talk I tackle the question of how we should respond to moral disagreement with our acknowledged epistemic peers. In the first part of the talk I examine and criticise two answers to this question : the conciliatory answer maintaining that we should suspend judgement, and the steadfast answer claiming that we should retain our beliefs. My main line of criticism is developed around the idea that both answers fail to appreciate the multifaceted nature of moral disagreement. In the second part of the talk I outline a third-way answer, which hinges on two main contentions. First, disagreement is evidence which should lead the peers to re-assess their epistemic position vis-à-vis the issue at stake. Secondly, this re-assessment, which can result in various outcomes depending on the specific disagreement case at stake, can be rationally carried out while entertaining a sui generis doxastic attitude which I call “hypothesis”. In the third part of the talk I test my third-way answer against various cases of moral disagreement in order to show that it fares better than its conciliatory and steadfast rivals.


13 juin 2018

Laura et François Schroeter, Melbourne University :
« To be donedness »


Normative judgments about what’s morally right (or all-told right) play a characteristic action-guiding role that has long puzzled metaethicists. In this paper we explain this action-guiding role by focusing on normative concepts and their distinctive mode of presentation, or way of thinking about the properties they pick out. We highlight the distinctive phenomenology and egocentric character associated with normative concepts. We also show how these distinctive features don’t threaten metaethical cognitivism and naturalism.