Habermas’s moral cognitivism and the Frege-Geach challenge

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Finlayson, James Gordon (2005)

Habermas’s Moral Cognitivism and the Frege-Geach challenge, JAMES GORDON FINLAYSON This article levels at Habermas’s discourse ethics a challenge more usually directed to theories denying moral discourse is truth-bearing. It argues that the same challenge applies to discourse ethics, because Habermas denies that moral utterances are truth-apt, and claims that they are only analogous to truth. Part I shows that Habermas’s view that there is only an analogy between truth and rightness rests on an unjustified worry that metaethical cognitivism implies moral realism. It concludes that Habermas simply assumes moral discourse is syntactically disciplined exactly like theoretical discourse, but cannot explain why this is. Part II argues that the only tenable responses open to Habermas are either 1. to combine deflationism about truth with the acceptance that moral utterances can be true, or 2. to refrain from offering any theory of truth and to prescind entirely from the metaethical question of cognitivism versus non-cognitvism. – Correspondence to James Gordon Finlayson, Department of Philosophy, University of Sussex, Arts B Building 340, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QN
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