"Metaethical Contextualism and the Dispositional Theory of Value"
Abstract: Within contemporary philosophy, terms such as ‘disgusting’ and ‘desirable’ are usually understood to be evaluative terms, referring to the responses of an ideal agent. However, closer inspection of their use indicates that while often these terms are used evaluatively, sometimes they simply describe common psychological tendencies. Following the general strategy of Stephen Finlay’s recent Confusion of Tongues, I propose the following analysis. These terms are purely dispositional. X is desirable (or disgusting, etc.) just in case it is disposed to elicit desire (or disgust, etc) in a contextually salient agent. Thanks to pragmatic features, that salient agent is sometimes understood as an implicit model for us to emulate, leading to an evaluative interpretation of the dispositional ascription. The resulting account can be used to distinguish the right from the wrong kind of reasons.
Derek Baker is an Associate Professor at Lingnan University.