Thick Concepts: Where’s Evaluation?<sup>1</sup>

Pekka Väyrynen

in Oxford Studies in Metaethics Volume 7

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199653492
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741661 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Metaethics

Thick Concepts: Where’s Evaluation?1

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This chapter presents an alternative to the standard view that at least some of the evaluations that the so-called “thick” terms and concepts in ethics may be used to convey belong to their sense or semantic meaning. (Thick terms are terms like “cruel,” “rude,” “courageous,” and “tactful,” in contrast with such “thin” terms as “right,” “wrong,” “good,” and “bad.”) After introducing the topic and making some methodological remarks, the chapter presents a wide variety of linguistic data that are well explained by the alternative view that at least a very wide range of thick terms and concepts are such that even the evaluations that are most closely connected to them are only a certain kind of defeasible implications of their utterances which can be given a conversational explanation. The chapter then describes some reasons to think that this explanation of the data presented is superior to the standard view, although a fuller assessment must await further work. The chapter closes by explaining the largely deflationary consequences of this account for claims that thick terms and concepts have deep and distinctive significance to evaluative thought and judgment.

Keywords: moral language; moral semantics; thick concepts; evaluation; semantics–pragmatics distinction

Chapter.  15985 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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