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Stephen F. Finlay
University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA 90089-0012)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products][Media coverage]

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2012 – 7/31/2013

Confusion of Tongues: A Theory of Normative Discourse

My book in progress, Confusion of Tongues, offers an original philosophical theory of the meaning, use, and significance of moral and normative language. Against widespread views in contemporary moral philosophy, I argue that this language can be analyzed in other, "natural" terms. A linguistic approach is employed, looking at the full range of ways in which we use words like "good," "ought," and "reason." This yields a maximally simple and unifying semantics that accommodates all these uses, moral and nonmoral. I argue that many of the central metaethical puzzles that have led to rejection of the possibility of such analyses are a result of the complexity of the pragmatics of normative language, or how it is used in context in pursuit of speaker's ends. These puzzles can be solved by application of a single fundamental pragmatic principle. I propose to use a fellowship to complete the second half of this project.