Metalinguistic Value Disagreement

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In a series of publications Burgess, Plunkett and Sundell have developed
a metalinguistic negotiation view that they call ‘Conceptual Ethics.’
I argue that their position adequately captures our intuition that some cases
of value disputes are metalinguistic, but that they reverse the direction of justification
when they state that speakers ‘negotiate’ the best use of a term or
concept on the basis of its prior social role. Borrowing ideas from Putnam
(1975b), I instead suggest distinguishing two meanings of general terms and
value predicates. Core meaning represents the lowest common denominator
between speakers and is primarily based on our needs to coordinate behavior.
In contrast to this, the noumenal meaning of a general term or value predicate
is intended to capture an aspect of reality and represents what a term really
means. Like many other disputes about theoretical terms, terms for abstract
objects, and predicates, metalinguistic value disputes are about noumenal
meaning on the basis of a shared core meaning. This direction towards reality
is what sets the account apart from mere metalinguistic negotiation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-159
Number of pages20
JournalStudia Semiotyczne
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • metalinguistic negotiation
  • value disagreement
  • relativism
  • meaning theory
  • externalism


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