Abstract

The notion of expression has been put to many uses in philosophy, yet it has received surprisingly little direct theoretical attention.  Drawing on certain distinctions I employ in earlier work, I try to show how, properly understood, the notion of expression can help address standing puzzles in seemingly disparate areas: a puzzle about so-called first-person authority (in philosophy of mind and epistemology) a puzzle about the motivational character of ethical claims (in metaethics) and a puzzle about the origins of meaning (in the philosophy of language).  In each case, I argue that undue dismissals of substantive expressivist proposals that could potentially resolve the relevant puzzles have been informed by failure to appreciate the ways in which the expressive and the semantic interact.  In the final section, I propose (more tentatively) that the proffered understanding – of the notion of expression and of the promise of expressivist proposals – is apt to shed light on the question what (if anything) is distinctive of so-called normative language.