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Metaethics, teleosemantics and the function of moral judgements

Sinclair, Neil

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Professor of Philosophy


This paper applies the theory of teleosemantics to the issue of moral content. Two versions of teleosemantics are distinguished: input-based and output-based. It is argued that applying either to the case of moral judgements generates the conclusion that such judgements have both descriptive (belief-like) and directive (desire-like) content, intimately entwined. This conclusion directly validates neither descriptivism nor expressivism, but the application of teleosemantics to moral content does leave the descriptivist with explanatory challenges which the expressivist does not face. Since teleosemantics ties content to function, the paper also offers an account of the evolutionary function of moral judgements.


Sinclair, N. (2012). Metaethics, teleosemantics and the function of moral judgements. Biology and Philosophy,

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Apr 3, 2012
Deposit Date Apr 12, 2012
Publicly Available Date Apr 12, 2012
Journal Biology and Philosophy
Print ISSN 0169-3867
Electronic ISSN 0169-3867
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Public URL
Publisher URL
Related Public URLs
Additional Information The original publication is available at


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