Inferentialism as an alternative to expressivism

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Normative discourse includes statements which appear to be truth-apt expressions of normative beliefs. But normative oughts do not seem to fit cleanly amongst the natural facts. This makes many naturalistically-inclined philosophers sympathetic to some form of the expressivist view that normative statements get their meaning from how they express desire-like attitudes. However, there are serious semantic challenges for expressivism, which lead many other philosophers to accept the idea that normative statements are representational of reality after all. This chapter presents third way that derives from the general program in the theory of meaning which emphasizes the commissive role of language over any descriptive or expressive roles. Here this emphasis is used to sketch a version of metaethical inferentialism and contrast it with expressivism. The chapter concludes with some observations about new perspectives this view offers on three other issues in metaethics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Studies in Metaethics
EditorsRuss Shafer-Landau
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9780191993718
ISBN (Print)9780198884699
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2023

Publication series

NameOxford Studies in Metaethics
PublisherOxford University Press

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • inferentialism
  • expressivism
  • normative meaning
  • commissive role of language
  • embedding problem
  • normative concepts


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