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Meaning and Value

Module Code: PI4034

Module Name: Meaning of Value

  • ECTS Weighting: 5/10
  • Semester/Term Taught: Michaelmas Term
  • Contact Hours: 22 hours of lecture
  • Module Personnel: Lecturer - TBA

Module Content

At the heart of our practice of making judgements - e.g. when we judge that eating meat is wrong or that Pride and Prejudice is an elegant story - there is a puzzle that has proved particularly resistant to a straightforward analysis. On the one hand, we do not seem to be merely making judgements about some objective reality independent of our own perspective. On the other hand, we don't seem to be merely expressing our subjective attitudes and feelings in linguistic clothing. How then should we understand value judgements? Can we provide an analysis that avoids collapsing into one of the unattractive alternatives provided by simple objectivism or subjectivism?

Pursuing this issue, we will review three attempts to solve the puzzle: expressivism, contextualism and relativism. Our starting point will be expressivism, both in its traditional and contemporary version. After having looked at some problems for expressivism we move our focus to contextualism and relativism as recent attempts to provide a solution. We will spend some time looking at the differences between them, before considering to what extent, if any, contextualism or relativism provide a more satisfactory analysis than expressivism. Readings will be mostly drawn from contemporary analytic philosophers, including Simon Blackburn, Allan Gibbard, Keith DeRose, Tamina Stephenson, Peter Lasersohn and John MacFarlane.

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module, students will be able to:

  • distinguish different versions of expressivism, contextualism and relativism;
  • critically discuss some recent developments in philosophical semantics;
  • relate issues in semantics to intentional psychology and metaphysics.