Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jesse Prinz

Committee Members

Miranda Fricker

Gary Ostertag

Subject Categories

Ethics and Political Philosophy


Normative ethics, metaethics, pragmatism, consequentialism, Richard Rorty, intuitions


The aim of this dissertation is to leverage philosophical resources given to us by Richard Rorty which can show that various diverse and seemingly-incompatible strands in moral theory can be reconciled to show that the differences between moral theories are illusory. The strategy is to show that Rorty’s approach to philosophy allows a pragmatist reconstruction of several prominent positions in normative ethics (Chapters 1 and 2) and metaethics (Chapter 3 and 4), and that a Rorty-style pragmatism, with its emphasis on liberal ironism and a relaxed approach to semantics and truth, facilitates the moderation of normative theories and metaethical theories, and hence that a Rortian perspective allows discourse between diverse and seemingly-incompatible positions. This result is interesting for two reasons. First, it undermines pragmatist orthodoxy, encouraged by Rorty himself, that pragmatists should not try to construct theories. I show that this view ignores the possibility that moral and metaethical theorizing may be aided by the acceptance of a Rortian perspective, and that methodology in ethics in important ways presupposes the truth of pragmatism. Second, the project provides interesting answers to ethical questions along the way, and hence indirectly shows that pragmatists can productively engage in technical philosophical debates and make legitimate positive contributions. Hence, I see myself as making an indirect argument for the Rortian perspective.