The pragmatist tradition in philosophy tends to focus on the pioneering work of its founding trio of Charles Pierce, William James, and John Dewey, who together proposed and developed a distinctive kind of naturalist empiricism. Though they disagreed sharply over central issues concerning truth and meaning, the original pragmatists shared a commitment to the primacy of practice and human experience, and a corresponding distaste for abstract philosophical theorizing. It comes as no surprise, then, that pragmatist work in value theory tends to focus on normative and applied ethics; there is very little in classical pragmatism that one would count as meta-ethics.
But philosophical landscapes change, and the area of meta-ethics is at present vibrant with philosophical debates that matter for moral practice, despite their being abstract. It turns out that getting a workable and attractive conception of moral life requires one to address the technical questions of meta-ethics. Accordingly, contemporary pragmatists need to work out a pragmatist meta-ethics.
In Toward a Pragmatist Metaethics
(Routledge, 2016), Diana Heney
gathers crucial philosophical resources from the classical pragmatists in providing a distinctively pragmatist defense of moral cognitivism and meta-ethical generalism. Her book combines a nuanced reading of the history of pragmatism with a sophisticated intervention in contemporary meta-ethical theory.