Normative certitude for expressivists

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Quasi-realists aspire to accommodate core features of ordinary normative thought and discourse in an expressivist framework. One apparent such feature is that we can be more or less confident in our normative judgments—they vary in credence. Michael Smith has argued that quasi-realists cannot plausibly accommodate these distinctions simply because they understand normative judgments as desires, but desires lack the structure needed to distinguish these three features. Existing attempts to meet Smith’s challenge have accepted Smith’s presupposition that the way to meet the challenge is to show that normative judgments have more structure than they initially seem to have. I argue that accepting this presupposition is accepting too much. The orthodox view of certitude, insofar as there is one, understands certitude very roughly in terms of counterfactual betting behaviour. Counterfactual betting behaviour, though, is not in any useful sense a structural feature of a given judgment. It is rather a more holistic feature of a given agent’s cognitive system. Insofar as it can meet the other challenges it faces, quasi-realism can characterize credences in terms of counterfactual betting behaviour and effectively say exactly what many realists will want to say about credences, thus meeting Smith’s challenge much more directly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Early online date25 Jul 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Jul 2018


  • certitude
  • expressivism
  • quasi-realism
  • decision theory
  • credence
  • belief
  • normativity
  • metaethics


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