Drew Johnson: Proper Function and Ethical Judgement Towards a Biosemantic Theory of Ethical Thought and Discourse

Check out Philosophy Graduate Student Drew Johnson’s recent publication titled “Proper Function and Ethical Judgment Towards A Biosemantic Theory of Ethical Thought and Discourse.” You can read the full paper here.



This paper employs Ruth Millikan’s biosemantic theory of representation to develop a proposal about the function of ethical claims and judgments. I propose that ethical claims and judgments (or ethical ‘affirmations’) have the function of simultaneously tracking the morally salient features of social situations and directing behavior that coordinates in a collectively beneficial way around those features. Thus, ethical affirmations count as a species of what Millikan labels ‘Pushmi-Pullyu’ representations that simultaneously have a descriptive and a directive direction of fit. This proposal supports a version of motivational internalism that can accommodate a surprising range of actual failures of motivation. I also briefly situate this proposal in the metaethical literature, contrasting it with other hybrid views incorporating elements of cognitivism and expressivism.