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Norms and Negation: A Problem for Gibbard's Logic

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All expressivist theories, including Gibbard's norm-expressivism, require a solution to the ‘Frege–Geach problem’, or ‘embedding problem’. This is the problem of accounting for the fact that normative predicates can enter into indefinitely many complex contexts without changing their meanings. I argue that Gibbard's well known solution fails. The chief difficulty is with negated contexts, specifically the distinction between refusing to accept a normative judgement and accepting its negation. Gibbard overlooks this distinction, and, more generally, overlooks the fact that norm-expressivists cannot explain what is meant by ruling out the content of a normative state, as opposed to ruling out its possession. I show this to have fundamental repercussions, and I cast serious doubt on the viability of expressivist theories of this type.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9213.00214

Affiliations: Bolton Institute

Publication date: January 1, 2001

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