The Practical, the Political and the Ethical seminar series.

The Practical, the Political and the Ethical seminar series.
6 June 2017, 5.30pm - 7.30pm
Room 246, Second Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU


Debbie Roberts (Edinburgh)


Depending on the thick 

‘What [Moore] really wants to insist on, I think, is an inadequacy claim: what is left of language after we

cull the ethical terms is in principle inadequate to the task of ascribing the properties we ascribe using the

ethical terms.’ Frank Jackson


The claim that the normative depends on the non-normative is just as entrenched in

metanormative theory as the clam that the normative supervenes on the non-normative. It’s

widely held to be a genuine truism, a conceptual truth that operates as a constraint on

competence with normative concepts. Call it the dependence constraint. I argue that this status is

unwarranted. While it is true that the normative is dependent it is not a genuine truism, or a

conceptual truth, that it depends on the non-normative. I argue for the following inadequacy

claim: that when we cull all the normative terms from our language, and so the concepts that they

stand for, what we will be left with will not necessarily be sufficient to adequately describe,

conceptualise or represent what it is that we are supposed to be making normative judgments in virtue of.

This has implications for both ascriptive and metaphysical understandings of the dependence

constraint, and the potential to radically reshape the dialectic in metanormative theory.


The Institute of Philosophy hosts regular seminars on the practical, the political, the ethical aspects of philosophy. The forum generally meets fortnightly in term time.


IP Events Office
020 7862 8833