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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 Väyrynen 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. TheLewd, 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.
"Väyrynen 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 much attention in metaethical discussions, but Väyrynen's book is the first comprehensive treatment of the subject. Väyrynen 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
Pekka Väyrynen is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at University of Leeds.