Institut Jean-Nicod, Ecole Normale Supérieure - 29, rue d'Ulm 75005 Paris.
Contact: Uriah Kriegel
Session 1: Value Luck
10h00-11h20 Carolina Sartorio (University of Arizona),
"A New Form of Moral Luck?"
Many of us have learned to live with the thought that moral luck is pervasive. But there is a manifestation of the phenomenon of moral luck that has been overlooked in the literature, and that seems especially puzzling. It’s a form of luck illustrated by cases where one’s responsibility appears to depend exclusively on whether other responsible agents are present and what their contributions are (something that is typically outside of one’s control). I discuss some examples of this phenomenon, some interesting differences between them, and draw some tentative conclusions.
11h20-12h40 Anna Christina Ribeiro (Texas Tech),
According to the Kantian picture of aesthetic judgments, so long as two people are judging an object’s form, and doing so disinterestedly, there should be no room for disagreement. Part of Kant’s explanation for this situation lies in our common humanity—what Kant called our ‘sensus communis’. It guarantees, in principle, the possibility of all beauty experiences to all aesthetic subjects. However, being human involves being idiosyncratic in various ways, ways that directly affect the perceptual and cognitive faculties that enable us to experience the beautiful, including our perception of form; this is confirmed by various studies in cognitive science. I note four dimensions in which we are subject to ‘aesthetic luck’, as I call these idiosyncrasies, and briefly discuss a few approaches to overcoming them as well as what consequences aesthetic luck may have for the metaphysics of aesthetic properties and for how we understand the aesthetic subject.
Session 2: Metaethical Expressivism
14h20-15h40 Alejandro Perez Carballo (Amherst),
"Chomsky and the expressivists"
According to a familiar thought, metaethical expressivism imposes substantive constraints on the project of giving a compositional semantics for English---constraints that are not satisfied by contemporary semantic theories. But whether this is so depends on how to understand the commitments of contemporary semantic theories: on whether representational notions have a role to play in explaining our knowledge of meaning. Borrowing a page from Chomsky's writings on the methodology of linguistics, I will argue that if contemporary semantic theory is a theory of semantic competence, it is neutral on the existence of substantive word-world relations. I will then argue that the methodological solipsism recommended by Chomsky is compatible with, and indeed can be well-motivated by, expressivist views about moral thought and talk. This in contrast with an assumption often left implicit that when it comes to meaning, expressivism is essentially a version of a use-theory of meaning.
15h40-17h Juan Comesana (University of Arizona),
"What Negation Problem for Expressivists?"
motivists like Ayer held that the meaning of moral expressions such as “Lying is wrong” is exhausted by the non-cognitive state of mind expressed by a sincere assertion of the expression. Expressivists such as Gibbard and Blackburn, the contemporary descendants of emotivists, have a much more sophisticated view. For one, they apply the non-cognitivist treatment to all nor- mative discourse, and not just to morality, and they deploy considerable technical resources in developing their views. But a basic problem for emotivism, however, continues to plague expressivism. In a nutshell, the problem is best seen as a challenge for expressivists to explain what normative expressions mean when embedded in larger contexts—for instance, in truth-functional contexts. What is, for the expressivist, the meaning of “If lying is wrong, then getting your little sister to lie is wrong”, for example? Expressivists have risen to the challenge and given their answers. But Unwin (2001) has argued that, for all their sophistication, expressivists cannot explain the most basic truth-functional context of all: negation. Unwin’s objection has been very influential. For all its influence, however, it is not clear what Unwin’s negation problem even is, let alone whether it is solvable or not. In this paper I begin by clarifying the problem, distinguishing between the syntactic, the semantic, and the psychological negation problem. I then argue that the view developed in Gibbard’s Wise Choices, Apt Feelings has all the resources necessary to solve all three negation problems. In addition, that same view can also account for mixed disjunctions, which Schroeder argues is the undoing of expressivism. I conclude that there is no negation problem for expressivism.
17h00-17h20 coffee break
Session 3: Darwinian Debunking
17h20-18h40 Katia Vavova (Mount Holyoke),
"A Dilemma for the Darwinian Debunker"
Evolutionary debunking arguments move from a premise about the influence of evolutionary forces on our moral beliefs to a skeptical conclusion about those beliefs. I first argue that the right way to understand the evolutionary debunker’s attack is as an empirically grounded epistemological challenge that is importantly distinct from some more general skeptical arguments. I then pose a dilemma for the evolutionary debunker.