Research Group in Analytic Philosophy

Conceptual Ethics and the Work of Metaphysics

    Amie Thomasson (Miami)

Date: 10 May 2017

Time: 15:00

Place: Seminari de Filosofia UB


 I have argued elsewhere that we should see metaphysics as fundamentally involved in conceptual work, where this includes not merely descriptive work in conceptual analysis, but also—and often more interestingly—normative conceptual work: work in conceptual ethics. But if the work of metaphysics centrally involves work in conceptual ethics, how ought we to go about doing this? Little has been said about the proper methods for conceptual ethics, and one might proceed in at least two opposed ways. The first, metaphysical, approach, is to hold that our conceptual choices ought to be responsive to the metaphysical facts of the world—for example to retaining only those concepts that correspond to what there is, or choosing a conceptual structure that properly matches the structure of reality. The second, pragmatic, approach, does not appeal to such metaphysical facts, and so is open to metaontological deflationists. On the pragmatic approach, we assess our conceptual choices by appealing to the functions that the relevant ranges of concepts have, or ought to have. I will argue that the metaphysical approach is epistemologically problematic, and that the pragmatic approach can be adopted without falling into arbitrariness.