Friday, November 25, 2011

Some problem sentences for expressivist views in ethics and aesthetics

According to expressivist views in ethics and aesthetics, sentences like "Murder is wrong" or "The Mona Lisa is beautiful" do not express a proposition, but express some kind of an attitude. I think many propositional attitudes are problematic for expressivists. Here is one that is perhaps not: "Sally thinks murder is wrong." This, the expressivist can say, is a sentence expressing the proposition that Sally has the attitude A, where A is the attitude that she would express by saying "Murder is wrong." But some are much harder:

  1. Sam knows that cheating on exams is wrong.
  2. Alex is unsure whether Picasso's cubist paintings are any good.
  3. The younger Augustine feared that fornication might be wrong.
  4. Dr. Jones hopes that her proposed experiment is morally acceptable.
  5. Mark hopes that the sculpture that he is working on will be beautiful.

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