Some not-much-discussed problems for non-cognitivism in ethics

Michael Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The main objection to non-cognitivism explored in the philosophical literature to date has been semantic in nature. How can normative claims lack truth conditions when they have so many features in common with claims that have truth conditions? The main aim of this paper is to shift attention away from this dominant line of objection onto a range of other problems that non-cognitivists face. Specifically, I argue that, contrary to the non-cognitivists, normative claims do express beliefs, even by their own lights; that the truth of Normative Judgement Internalism does not support non-cognitivism; that arguing for non-cognitivism on the basis of the Open Question Argument, as non-cognitivists do, leads them to embrace a contradiction; and, finally, that non-cognitivists do not provide us with plausible candidates for the desires and aversions that, as they see things, get expressed in normative claims.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-115
Number of pages23
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2001
Externally publishedYes

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