Impassioned Belief

Research output: Book/ReportBook


We all form judgments about what ways of life are worthwhile, what we are morally required to do and so on. These so-called ‘normative’ judgments have seemed puzzling in part because they exhibit both belief-like and desire-like features. Traditional cognitivist theories hold that these judgments are beliefs rather than desires; traditional non-cognitivist theories hold that they are desires rather than beliefs. Each of these traditions tries to accommodate or explain away what the other tradition handles so easily. One often gets the sense that the defenders of these increasingly complex theories are trying to force a square peg into a round hole. So-called ‘hybrid theories’ try to have the best of both worlds by understanding normative judgments as constituted by both belief-like and desire-like states. This book defends a distinctive hybrid theory it calls ‘Ecumenical Expressivism’. By emphasizing the often neglected distinction between meta-semantics and semantics, Ecumenical Expressivism accommodates both the context-sensitivity of normative predicates and a broadly truth-conditional approach to semantics. The book builds on this solution with a theory of propositions which accommodates irreducible normative propositions in an expressivist framework. This, in turn, sets the stage for a theory of truth which does not depend on controversial ‘deflationist’ assumptions, but can be combined with any otherwise plausible conception of truth. Finally, the book develops and defends a novel theory of disagreement and a more cognitivist hybrid theory of talk of rationality.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages264
ISBN (Print)9780199682669
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • normative
  • cognitivist theories
  • non-cognitivist theories
  • hybrid theories
  • Ecumenical Expressivism,
  • semantics
  • deflationist


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