Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 465–482 | Cite as

An Expressivist Account of the Difference between Poor Taste and Immorality

  • Garry YoungEmail author


This paper considers whether proposition (P1) – “x is not immoral but it is in poor taste” – is morally contradictory when considered from the standpoint of constructive ecumenical expressivism (CEE). According to CEE, pronouncements about poor taste and immorality have the following in common: they each convey a negative attitude towards x and intimate that x ought not to be done. Given this, P1 is vulnerable to a charge of contradiction, as it intimates that x is both something and not something that ought not to be done. To avoid the putative contradiction, it is argued that an accusation of poor taste amounts to a negative attitude towards the treatment of a morally pertinent matter, thereby making the former parasitic on the latter. A morally relevant means of distinguishing between poor taste and immorality is therefore provided that (i) endorses the expressivist tradition, and (ii) provides an account of societal norms.


Moral anti-realism Constructive ecumenical expressivism De re and de dicto attitudes Intersubjective moral norms Suberogatory action 



I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their invaluable feedback. I would also like to thank those who attended the University of Melbourne philosophy seminar for their comments, particularly Karen Jones and Andrew Inkpin.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of historical and philosophical studiesUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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