Vol 20 No 2 (2020)

On the Relations between Non-Cognitivism and Liberalism

Riccardo Guastini
Tarello institute for the Philosophy of Law, University of Genoa
Published December 22, 2020
  • ethics,
  • meta-ethics,
  • non-cognitivism,
  • liberalism,
  • tolerance


In the first part of the paper, the author outlines a non-cognitivist meta-ethics based on the is-ought distinction and Hume’s guillotine. Nonetheless, the author maintains that logical reasoning is possible also in the ethical domain. Value-judgments and normative sentences, although lacking truth values, can be proved within a (moral, legal, or political) normative system on the basis of the accepted normative premises of the system at stake. Any inferential move, however, cannot but stop when reaching the “supreme principle” of the system. In the second part of the paper, the author claims for a non-logical, pragmatic, connection between meta-ethics and normative ethics, viz. between non-cognitivism and liberalism. Liberal ethics, understood as the ethics of tolerance, provides good pragmatic reasons for joining non-cognitivist meta-ethics, and vice versa, while non-liberal intolerant ethics, in turn, provides good pragmatic reasons for joining a cognitivist meta-ethics, and vice versa.