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Was Mill a non-cognitivist?

Macleod, Christopher (2013) Was Mill a non-cognitivist? The Southern Journal of Philosophy, 51 (2). pp. 206-223. ISSN 0038-4283

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    In this paper, I examine the presumption that Mill endorses a form of metaethical non-cognitivism. I argue that the evidence traditionally cited for this interpretation is not convincing, and suggest that we should instead remain open to a cognitivist reading. I begin, in Section I, by laying out the ‘received view’ of Mill on the status of practical norms, as given by Alan Ryan in the 1970s. There is, I claim in Sections II and III, no firm textual evidence for this reading of Mill: his remarks on ‘art’ and ‘science’ do not show the metaethical commitments they have been taken to. Neither is there firm textual evidence for a cognitivist reading. However, I suggest in Section IV, a non-cognitivist interpretation suffers from the fault of anachronism, and is difficult to reconcile with a clear commitment in Utilitarianism IV.3 to the possibility of evidence being given for the desirability of pleasure. A cognitivist reading would not suffer from these faults, and on that basis, I conclude that we should think further about what a cognitivist reading of Mill might amount to.

    Item Type: Article
    Journal or Publication Title: The Southern Journal of Philosophy
    Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Macleod, C. (2013), Was Mill a Noncognitivist?. The Southern Journal of Philosophy, 51: 206–223. doi: 10.1111/sjp.12011 which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
    Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
    Departments: Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences > Politics & International Relations (Merged into PPR 2010-08-01)
    ID Code: 59474
    Deposited By: ep_importer_pure
    Deposited On: 25 Oct 2012 13:25
    Refereed?: Yes
    Published?: Published
    Last Modified: 03 Nov 2015 16:39
    Identification Number:

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