Friday, March 03, 2006

Lewis/Blackburn Note

I wrote up some thoughts relating to my previous post as a short note. Comments welcome!

1 comment:

Daniel Elstein said...

Hi Carrie,

I agree with the main thrust of your paper (naturally), but I'm not so sure about what differentiates your response from Blackburn's. You say: 'So despite what Blackburn’s response suggests, we can respond to Lewis’s argument without making assumptions as to [1] what English moral sentences actually express, nor about [2] whether these sentences can have a sense other than the quasi-realist’s.' I don't think Blackburn's response makes either assumption.

On 1, Blackburn as I read him is pointing out that if descriptive quasi-realism is true, then there are moral properties, whereas if descriptive fictionalism is true then there are no moral properties. Hence the two views are distinct in that they have different consequences.

I would say that the difference between your response and Blackburn's is that you extend the contrast to revisionary quasi-realism and fictionalism. But we can still make the distinction in Blackburn's way, if a little awkwardly. Revisionary quasi-realism recommends using moral terms in such a way that if it had turned out that we used them that way (and we made standard moral judgements) then there would be moral properties. Revisionary fictionalism recommends using moral terms in such a way that if it had turned out that we used them that way (and we made standard moral judgements) then there would be no moral properties.

On 2, when Blackburn says that ‘the quasi realist need allow no sense to [the target sentence] except one in which it is true’, I'm not convinced he's disagreeing with you when you say that the quasi-realist can allow other such senses. Rather, I think he's pointing out that it won't do to say that the quasi-realist only talks as if there are moral properties when the quasi-realist may not acknowledge any sense in which there are no moral properties. That the quasi-realist could accept such other senses leaves Blackburn's argument intact, because Lewis needs all quasi-realists to accept such senses. The mere possibility of a quasi-realist who doesn't (even if that isn't a very good view) is enough to show that quasi-realism isn't fictionalism, because to be a fictionalist you have to accept a sense in which there are no moral properties.