McNair/Gateway Scholars Program USC

James Deirmendjian

Major and Classification

Philosophy

Faculty Mentors

  • Professor Stephen Finlay

Department

McNair Project

"The Cognitivism / Non-Cognitivism Debate"

One of the central debates in 20th century metaethics regards the semantics of moral language. The two major competing views are, 1) cognitivism as a position whose central tenet maintains moral statements as truth-bearing propositions, which are made true by some ontological state of affairs in the world that said propositions describe; and 2) non-cognitivism as a claim that holds that moral language is used to merely express the subjective sentiment of the agent who speaks it towards the object in the world, and which is signified by the subject of that agent's sentence. Both positions, however, are beset with issues and implications that leave them unsatisfying at best. This examination will delve into the contemporary literature in an effort to discover why the problem of moral semantics seems intractable.