Noncognitivism and agent-centered norms

Alisabeth Ayars, Gideon Rosen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper takes up a neglected problem for metaethical noncognitivism: the characterization of the acceptance states for agent-centered normative theories like Rational Egoism. If Egoism is a coherent view, the non-cognitivist needs a coherent acceptance state for it. This can be provided, as Dreier (Aust J Philos 74: 409–422, 1996) and Gibbard (Thinking how to live, Harvard University Press, 2003) have shown. But those accounts fail when generalized, assigning the same acceptance state to normative theories that are clearly distinct, or assigning no acceptance state to theories that look to be intelligible. The paper makes the case for this and then asks: What should we conclude if the problem cannot be solved? We might conclude that since Egoism is clearly a coherent (if mistaken) view, the argument amounts to a refutation of noncognitivism. But we suggest another possibility. There is, on reflection, something incoherent, or at least odd, in standard formulations of Egoism; noncognitivism predicts this and so provides an intriguing explanation for this fact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1019-1038
Number of pages20
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy


  • Agent-centered norms
  • Alan Gibbard
  • De se attitudes
  • Egoism
  • Expressivism
  • James Dreier
  • Noncognitivism


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