Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
Faculty of PhilosophyOrganizationNews & EventsNewsEvents

Hybrid Expressivist Error Theory

Lecture by Wouter Kalf (University of Utrecht) organized by the Department of Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy


Moral antirealists traditionally embrace either error theory or expressivism. But these theories can also be combined into a hybrid expressivist-error theory, which merges non-cognitivist (expressivist) and cognitivist (error-theoretic) semantic elements.

This hybrid view has been argued to provide a better explanation of the various and mostly semantic features of moral discourse than pure expressivism and pure error theory. I focus on the comparison between hybrid expressivist-error theory and error theory.

First, I argue that existing and novel arguments for hybrid expressivist-error theory don’t work. These arguments concern error theory’s alleged inability to analyse moral imperatives, its inability to explain moral motivation, its implausible implication that all moral judgments are systematically false and its rejection of the parasiticity of falsehood requirement. A new formulation of error theory enables us to accommodate these challenges, and is unprecedented in its requirement that some moral judgments express both beliefs and conative attitudes, its improved treatment of the expression relation, the kinds of moral judgments it classifies as systematically false and the non-standard way in which it determines the meaning of moral concepts.

Second, I argue that hybrid expressivist-error theory faces significant problems of its own. Together these two arguments suggest that error theorists should continue to defend the pure form of error theory rather than hybrid expressivist-error theory.

I close by exploring whether my arguments have force in the closely related debate between hybrid expressivist-error theory and expressivism.

Wouter Kalf

Wouter Kalf is a post doc at the University of Utrecht. He was previously a teaching fellow at the University of Bristol and a Jacobson Research Fellow at the University of London. He has published papers on metaethics in journals such as Philosophical Studies and Ethical Theory and Moral Practice.

When & Where?

Wednesday, 4 February 2015, 3.15-5 pm
Room Omega, Faculty of Philosophy

Last modified:06 June 2019 12.46 p.m.