A Pragmatic Method for Conceptual Ethics
Amie Thomasson (Dartmouth College)

August 16, 2018, 4:15pm - 6:15pm
School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, The University of Melbourne

Babel G-03, Lower Theatre
University of Melbourne

Topic areas


How ought we to do work in conceptual ethics? Some have thought that conceptual choice should itself be guided by (heavyweight) metaphysics—for we should be sure that our concepts pick out things that exist or should aim to choose concepts that really ‘carve the world at its joints’. An alternative is to take a pragmatic approach to conceptual ethics. But pragmatic approaches are often criticized as unable to account for intuitions that some conceptual choices are objectively better than others, and intuitions that the world is structured. As a result, the fear is that a pragmatic approach leaves conceptual choices arbitrary and insusceptible to critique. This paper confronts such worries and develops a pragmatic method for conceptual ethics that clearly avoids these problems. As a result, we need not rely on heavyweight metaphysics and become entangled in its epistemological mysteries to do conceptual ethics.

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