Nondescriptivist Cognitivism: Framework for a New Metaethic

Terence E Horgan, Mark C Timmons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


We propose a metaethical view that combines the cognitivist idea that moral judgments are genuine beliefs and moral utterances express genuine assertions with the idea that such beliefs and utterances are nondescriptive in their overall content. This sort of view has not been recognized among the standard metaethical options because it is generally assumed that all genuine beliefs and assertions must have descriptive content. We challenge this assumption and thereby open up conceptual space for a new kind of metaethical view. In developing our brand of nondescriptivist cognitivism we do the following: (1) articulate a conception of belief (and assertion) that does not require the overall declarative content of beliefs (and assertions) to be descriptive content; (2) make a case for the independent plausibility of this conception of belief and assertion; and (3) argue that our view, formulated in a way that draws upon the proposed conception of belief, has significant comparative advantages over descriptivist forms of cognitivism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-153
Number of pages33
JournalPhilosophical Papers
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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