Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jesse Prinz

Committee Members

Catherine Wilson

Steve Ross

Subject Categories

Ethics and Political Philosophy | Philosophy


Intentions, Intersubjectivity, Metaethics, Moral Psychology, Practical Reason, Wilfrid Sellars


I defend a thesis called metaethical intentionalism, according to which deontic moral judgments (“ought” judgments) are intersubjective intentions or verbal expressions of intersubjective intentions. They have the form, “We shall any of us do A in C,” or are derivable from such practical commitments. They are universalizable by virtue of their content (“… any of us …”) and sharable by virtue of their form (“We …”). My account of the moral “ought” is inspired by the moral writings of Wilfrid Sellars (1912–1989). While I draw on his work and offer interpretations, my primary aim is to develop and refine Sellars’s metaethical legacy, extending and applying it to metaethical issues he did not fully address. In Chapter I, I articulate and argue for the theory’s main claims. I also construct a novel interpretation of Sellarsian we-intentions, one that resists a collectivist reading of the first-person-plural “we” that animates the moral point of view. In Chapter II, I create a taxonomy of practical disagreements and use the theory’s resources to identify the loci of moral disagreements at various nodes in web-like patterns of practical inference. In Chapter III, I address internalism–externalism debates about moral motivation and reasons for action. I argue that metaethical intentionalism commits us to both internalisms, and I show that it provides powerful resources for meeting motivational externalists’ objections and explaining away the appeal of externalism about reasons.

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