This is the second of a series of posts in which I try to make clear the different embedding difficulties that, as a family, are thought to present the most pressing objection to expressivism and to distinguish the different kinds of expressivism toward which each difficulty is most forcefully directed. The first post explained what I take expressivism to be. In this post, I distinguish four main kinds of expressivism. The heart of the series, the actual embedding difficulties, will begin with the next post in the series.
The four main kinds of expressivism I have in mind can be distinguished by focusing on three distinctions: simple v. complex expressivism, truth-evaluability v. non-truth-evaluability, and robust v. minimal truth conditions.
A simple expressivist theory is an expressivist theory according to which a proper, literal utterance of an ethical sentence, like ‘Intentionally flying airplanes into tall buildings is wrong’, is the performance of only a direct expressive illocutionary act or only a direct directive illocutionary act. Gibbard’s norm-expressivism, Ayer’s emotivism, and Blackburn’s projectivism are all simple expressivist theories, since they would all hold that a proper, literal utterance of an ethical sentence is the performance of only a direct expressive illocutionary act. A complex expressivist theory is an expressivist theory according to which a proper, literal utterance of an ethical sentence is the performance of a direct expressive or direct directive and the performance of at least one other direct illocutionary act–most probably an assertive. Hare’s prescriptivism, Copp’s realist-expressivism, my expressive-assertivism, and, I think, Stevenson’s emotivism are all complex expressivist theories. (On whether Stevenson’s considered theory is a complex expressivist theory, see especially Facts and Values, pp. 204-206, in which he seems to vacillate between his theory being simple or complex.) Hare’s prescriptivism would hold that a proper, literal utterance of an ethical sentence is the performance of a direct assertive and a direct (universally applicable) directive, while Copp’s, my, and Stevenson’s (if, in fact, his is a complex expressivist theory)theories would hold that such an utterance is the performance of a direct assertive and a direct expressive.
Let’s say that a sentence S of L is truth-evaluable in L if and only if S possesses certain features that are necessary and sufficient for S’s having truth conditions in L, and, hence, for S’s being either true or false in L, and that a sentence S of L is non-truth-evaluable in L if it is not truth-evaluable in L. Hare, Stevenson, Blackburn, Copp, and I hold that ethical sentences are truth-evaluable. Ayer holds that ethical sentences are non-truth-evaluable. Gibbard also holds that ethical sentences are non-truth-evaluable, or at least he does so in Wise Choices, Apt Feelings (pp. 8, 10); in Thinking How to Live, he seems to accept that ethical sentences are truth-evaluable (p. 18).
And let’s say that, if ethical sentences are truth-evaluable, a true one is robustly true if truth is some philosophically interesting property (like correspondence, useful to believe, coherent with one’s other beliefs, etc.) and is minimally true if truth is not some philosophically interesting property. Blackburn, Gibbard (in THL) and Stevenson hold that ethical sentences are minimally true. (For Stevenson’s view on truth minimalism, see Facts and Values, pp. 214-220). Hare, Copp, and I hold that ethical sentences are robustly true.
The three preceding distinctions show that expressivist theories can be categorized into six distinct kinds, although I will discuss only the four plausible kinds:
1. Simple, non-truth-evaluable expressivism (SNT-expressivism): Gibbard’s norm-expressivism (as described in WCAF) and Ayer’s emotivism. For simplicity, I’ll simply use ‘Ayer’s emotivism’ in future posts as a placeholder for any SNT-expressivist theories.
2. Simple, minimalist expressivism (SM-expressivism): Blackburn’s projectivism and Gibbard’s norm-expressivism (in THL). In future posts, I’ll use ‘Blackburn’s projectivism’ as a placeholder for any SM-expressivist theory.
3. Complex, robust expressivism (CR-expressivism): Hare’s prescriptivism, Copp’s realist-expressivism, my expressive-assertivism. I’ll use ‘expressive-assertivism’ as a placeholder for any CR-expressivist theory.
4. Complex, minimalist expressivism (CM-expressivism): Stevenson’s emotivism. I’ll use ‘Stevenson’s emotivism’ as a placeholder for any CM-expressivist theory.
(For reasons we need not discuss here, simple, robust expressivism is incoherent, and complex, non-truth-evaluable expressivism is unmotivated.)
We could, of course, distinguish even more refined forms of expressivism. For example, there could be several different kinds of minimalist expressivist theories distinguished by different kinds of minimalist theories of truth, as well several different kinds of robust expressivist theories distinguished by different kinds of robust theories of truth. Hopefully, though, we have enough to get us started.