ABSTRACT

Expressivism, the view that ethical claims are expressions of psychological states, has advantages such as closing the gap between normative claims and motivation and avoiding difficulties posed by the ontological status of values. However, it seems to make substantive moral disagreement impossible. Here, we develop a suggestion from William James as a pragmatist extension of expressivism. If we look at a set of moral claims from the perspective of the maximally comprehensive set of co-possible satisfactions, then a claim can be treated as true if it is part of that set. There then is a practical “fact of the matter” about the members of such a set. This makes the notion of moral truth analogous to pragmatic notions of scientific truth, defined as what will withstand inquiry to its ideal limit, and thereby provides a way for expressivists to make sense of moral disagreement.

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