The Lewd, the Rude and the Nasty: A Study of Thick Concepts in Ethics

ISBN : 9780199314751

Pekka Vayrynen
288 ページ
163 x 241 mm
Oxford Moral Theory

In addition to thin concepts like the good, the bad and the ugly, our evaluative thought and talk appeals to thick concepts like the lewd and the rude, the selfish and the cruel, the courageous and the kind - concepts that somehow combine evaluation and non-evaluative description. Thick concepts are almost universally assumed to be inherently evaluative in content, and many philosophers claimed them to have deep and distinctive significance in ethics and metaethics. In this first book-length treatment of thick concepts, Pekka Vayrynen argues that all this is mistaken. Through detailed attention to the language of thick concepts, he defends a novel theory on which the relationship between thick words and evaluation is best explained by general conversational and pragmatic norms. Drawing on general principles in philosophy of language, he argues that many prominent features of thick words and concepts can be explained by general factors that have nothing in particular to do with being evaluative. If evaluation is not essential to the sort of thinking we do with thick concepts, claims for the deep and distinctive significance of the thick are undermined. The Lewd, the Rude and the Nasty is a fresh and innovative treatment of an important topic in moral philosophy and sets a new agenda for future work. It will be essential reading to anyone interested in the analysis and the broader philosophical significance of evaluative and normative language. "Vayrynen presents an extremely well researched, highly innovative, and yet very careful and highly polished treatment of an extremely hot area in philosophy. The book is tightly argued but engagingly written. I would hold it up as a model philosophy monograph. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that this book will be widely influential and admired. Indeed, it could easily become a classic." - Brad Hooker, University of Reading "For the past few decades thick concepts have received much attention in metaethical discussions, but Vayrynen's book is the first comprehensive treatment of the subject. Vayrynen skillfully uses tools from philosophy of language in order to sharpen and advance the discussion of thick concepts. The book will be essential reading not only to anyone interested in the specific topic of thick concepts but also to anyone who is concerned with the analysis of normative language generally. It is a very good paradigm of linguistically informed metaethics." - Matti Eklund, Cornell University


1 Why Thick Concepts Matter
1.1 A Brief Preview
1.2 The Intuitive Distinction
1.3 Two Questions about the Thick
1.4 Thick Matters
1.5 Looking Ahead
2 Thick Concepts, Meaning and Evaluation
2.1 What is Evaluation?
2.2 What is Meaning?
2.3 What Count as Thick Terms and Concepts?
2.4 Global vs. Embedded Evaluations
3 Against the Semantic View I: The Data
3.1 Methodology: A Quick Overview
3.2 Objectionable Thick Terms and Concepts
3.3 Evaluations and Projection
3.4 Evaluations and Deniability
3.5 Conclusion
4 Against the Semantic View II: Against Rival Explanations
4.1 Three False Starts
4.2 Unwanted Implicatures?
4.3 Empty Thick Concepts?
4.4 Inverted-Commas Uses of Thick Terms?
4.5 Deniability and Metalinguistic Negation
4.6 Conclusion
5 In Defense of the Pragmatic View
5.1 T-Evaluations and Implicature
5.2 T-Evaluations and Conventions of Use
5.3 T-Evaluations and Presupposition
5.4 T-Evaluations and Pragmatic Not-At-Issue Content
5.5 Conclusion
6 Thick Pragmatics
6.1 T-Evaluations and Parochiality
6.2 T-Evaluations and Communicative Interests
6.3 Three Objections
6.4 More on Parochiality
6.5 The Scope of the Pragmatic View
6.6 Conclusion
7 Thick Concepts and Underdetermination
7.1 Disagreement and Extension
7.2 Underdetermination and Evaluation
7.3 Underdetermination and Gradability
7.4 Explaining Underdetermination+
7.5 Conclusion
8 Shapelessness, Disentanglement and Irreducible Thickness
8.1 The Shapelessness Thesis
8.2 Shapelessness and Outrunning
8.3 The Inseparability Thesis
8.4 Irreducibly Thick Evaluation?
8.5 Conclusion
9 Thick Concepts and Variability
9.1 The Variability Argument
9.2 Variability and Comparative Constructions
9.3 Variability in the Positive Form?
9.4 Variability and the Semantic View
9.5 Variability and Specificity
9.6 Conclusion
10 Thick Concepts: Deflating Significance
10.1 Fact-Value Distinctions
10.2 Normative Reasons
10.3 Reflection and Objectivity
10.4 Beyond the Thick/Thin Distinction
10.5 A Final Summary
Appendix: A List of Named Theses


Pekka Vayrynen is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at University of Leeds.