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ACCEPTING AGENT CENTRED NORMS: A PROBLEM FOR NON-COGNITIVISTS AND A SUGGESTION FOR SOLVING IT ∗

By James Dreier

Abstract

Non-cognitivists 1 claim to be able to represent normative judgment, and especially moral judgment, as expression of a non-cognitive attitude. There is some reason to worry whether their treatment can incorporate agent centred theories, including much of common sense morality. In this paper I investigate the prospects for a non-cognitivist explanation of what is going on when we subscribe to agent centred theories or norms. The first section frames the issue by focusing on a particularly simple and clear agent centred theory, egoism. The second section poses the difficulty faced by non-cognitivist analyses of such theories and norms, and runs briefly through a couple of abortive attempts to solve it. The third section offers a solution and explains it. The fourth section uses the account developed in the third section to show in what way agent centred judgments are universalizable and in what way they are not. I. Egoism and Non-cognitivism It is sometimes thought that non-cognitivist meta-ethics has no normative implications, that it is compatible with any understandable normative view. Here is an argument 2 to show that non-cognitivism entails the incoherence of accepting egoism. 3 Suppose that Tom, Dick, and Harry are playing a game of chinese checkers, with the winner to get a substantial prize. An egoist says: each man should further his own interests, without regard to the interests of others. The egoist is then committed to each of the following

Year: 2008
OAI identifier: oai:CiteSeerX.psu:10.1.1.134.1930
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