Monday, July 14, 2008
The Second Maxim
I feel as if, when philosophers attempt to rationally reconstruct or formalize or explicate some fragment of discourse, we should construe things so that as few (kinds of) sentences are truth-apt as possible. If the first maxim of scientific philosophizing is always to replace undefined primitives with logical constructs, the second maxim is to construe as few utterances as truth-apt assertions as possible. If we are concerned to reconstruct the most parsimonious theory of the world from some corpus of verbal behavior (and natural knowledge), then as little of the behavior should constitute endorsement of part of a theory as possible. Suppose the expressivist meta-ethical theory provides us with a range of terms and constructions (that do not yield truth-apt, assertive sentences) with which we might replace the rationally defensible bits of our current ethical discourse. The non-reductive realist meta-ethical theory provides us with a range of terms and constructions (that do yield truth-apt, assertive sentences) with which we might do the same. If both theories account equally well for the verbal behavior, don’t we have to endorse the expressivist theory? Isn’t the second maxim the reason why?