Hybrid Expressivism and the Analogy between Pejoratives and Moral Language



Abstract: In recent literature supporting a hybrid view between metaethical cognitivism and noncognitivist expressivism, much has been made of an analogy between moral terms and pejoratives. The analogy is based on the plausible idea that pejorative slurs are used to express both a descriptive belief and a negative attitude. The analogy looks promising insofar as it encourages the kinds of features we should want from a hybrid expressivist view for moral language. But the analogy between moral terms and pejorative slurs is also problematic. In this paper, I argue for two main ways in which we should distinguish between two different types of pejorative terms: slurs, on the one hand, and what I call general pejorative terms, on the other. I examine the problems with the analogy between slurs and moral terms and conclude that general pejorative terms like ‘jerk’ are a better candidate on which to model the potential dual-use behavior of moral terms. So if hybrid theorists are looking for a dual-use model for moral language, they should be careful to base their analogies on general pejoratives, rather than slurs.