Confusion of Tongues

Confusion of Tongues : A Theory of Normative Language

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Can normative words like "good," "ought," and "reason" be defined in entirely non-normative terms? Confusion of Tongues argues that they can, advancing a new End-Relational theory of the meaning of this language as providing the best explanation of the many different ways it is ordinarily used. Philosophers widely maintain that analyzing normative language as describing facts about relations cannot account for special features of particularly moral and
deliberative uses of normative language, but Stephen Finlay argues that the End-Relational theory systematically explains these on the basis of a single fundamental principle of conversational pragmatics. These challenges comprise the central problems of metaethics, including the connection between normative
judgment and motivation, the categorical character of morality, the nature of intrinsic value, and the possibility of normative disagreement. Finlay's linguistic analysis has deep implications for the metaphysics, epistemology, and psychology of morality, as well as for the nature and possibility of normative ethical theory. Most significantly it supplies a nuanced answer to the ancient Euthyphro Question of whether we desire things because we judge them good, or vice versa. Normative speech
and thought may ultimately be just a manifestation of our nature as intelligent animals motivated by contingent desires for various conflicting ends.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 160 x 233 x 18mm | 430g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 1 illus.
  • 0190649631
  • 9780190649630
  • 2,028,464

Table of contents

Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. A Good Word to Start With
Chapter 3. The Probable Meaning of 'Ought'
Chapter 4. Explaining Reasons
Chapter 5. Pragmatics and Practicality
Chapter 6. Multiple Ends
Chapter 7. Categorical and Final
Chapter 8. A Disagreeable Problem
Chapter 9. Conclusion
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Review quote

This is one of the richest, most sophisticated, and most impressive books on metaethics to have been published in my lifetime. Everyone with any interest in normative language ought to read it. Those who would seek to defend reductive naturalist views of the sort Finlay develops here will find it a treasure trove of dialectical resources that they will want to plunder repeatedly. Those who seek to attack such views or to defend rival views will find it a challenge it
would be shameful to ignore. * James Lenman, LANGUAGE * Stephen Finlay has made an indispensable contribution to our understanding of normative, evaluative, and moral language...his broadly relativist approach offers an intellectually appealing alternative * The Philosophers' Magazine
* This is a book that anyone with an interest in metaethics ought to read, and I recommend it very highly. * Analysis
* Stephen Finlay's Confusion of Tongues (COT) is an ambitious book. Its first half advances a unifying semantics for normative words, including 'good', 'ought', and 'reason'. In the second half, he argues that this semantics, combined with a single pragmatic principle, can explain the uses of such expressions of special interest to ethicists. COT's engagement with these topics is rich and complex. * Mind
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About Stephen Finlay

Stephen Finlay is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California. He is the author of a number of articles on metaethics and moral psychology. Originally from New Zealand, he lives in Pomona, California with his wife and three daughters.
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