Jason was in Syracuse yesterday, and told me about this
interview with Simon Blackburn from a couple of years ago:
Blackburn’s explanation of quasi-realism confirmed my
non-expert opinion that there is no such thing as quasi-realism. Maybe someone can set me straight. Here is what he says:
I called it “quasi-realism” because it starts from with
[sic] an emotivist, a fundamental expressionist, account of the fundamental
elements of what we are doing when we moralize. And that is a particular activity, a particular thing you do,
which is basically to express attitudes, to put pressure on plans, intentions,
conducts. It’s something
practical. But we talk as if there were
a truth in that talk, that’s why the quasi. We talk as if there were a reality, a normative reality, the kind
of reality Plato believed in. Now,
Mackie thought that was an error. I
said “No! The talk is okay, it is the
philosopher who is wrong.” The philosophers
make the error when they are demanding some fact, some kind of Platonic forms
in the world, or, in Aristotle, some kind of teleology of human nature.
I can’t see how to make sense of this. Start with this:
We talk as if there were a reality, a normative reality, the
kind of reality Plato believed in.
Blackburn says that this talk is “okay,” which seems to
indicate that we (“we” presumably meaning we non-philosophers?) are right to
believe in the kind of reality Plato believed in. That is, contrary to what Mackie says, we are right to believe in
objective moral properties and facts. If that’s what he’s really saying, then he’s just a moral realist. But in the very next sentence he seems to
remember that he is not a moral realist, and says that philosophers make an
error in believing in such facts or Platonic forms.
Is there a way to interpret Blackburn that does not ascribe
contradictory views to him? Maybe
“okay” is a technical term here? Or is there a better way to state quasi-realism?
(I guess it might seem unfair to focus on what he says in an
interview; he might have misspoken, or been misquoted. But what he says does seem exactly like the
sort of thing he says in his published writings.)