This reading group studies:
Allan Gibbard, Meaning and Normativity, OUP 2012

What does talk of meaning mean? All thinking consists in natural happenings in the brain. Talk of meaning though, has resisted interpretation in terms of anything that is clearly natural, such as linguistic dispositions. This, Kripke's Wittgenstein suggests, is because the concept of meaning is normative, on the 'ought' side of Hume's divide between is and ought. Allan Gibbard's previous books Wise Choices, Apt Feelings and Thinking How to Live treated normative discourse as a natural phenomenon, but not as describing the world naturalistically. His theory is a form of expressivism for normative concepts, holding, roughly, that normative statements express states of planning. This new book integrates his expressivism for normative language with a theory of how the meaning of meaning could be normative. The result applies to itself: metaethics expands to address key topics in the philosophy of language, topics which in turn include core parts of metaethics. An upshot is to lessen the contrast between expressivism and nonnaturalism: in their strongest forms, the two converge in all their theses. Still, they differ in the explanations they give. Nonnaturalists' explanations mystify, whereas expressivists render normative thinking intelligible as something to expect from beings like us, complexly social products of natural selection who talk with each other.


We will meet once a week on Wednesdays from 13:00 - 15:00 in D700.

The first meeting is on the 22nd of January and we end on the 9th of April.

We will read one chapter (or appendix) per meeting. Each week someone will present a summary of the material (approximately 20 minutes). Daan Evers will summarize chapter one.

Students at the advanced level can acquire credit for the reading group (7.5 points). The requirements are as follows: students must (at least) be present 8 out of 12 meetings, present once and write an essay of no more than 3000 words on a topic of their choice related to the book. Essays must be handed in two weeks after we finish the book.

If you want to participate or have any further questions, please contact Daan Evers.