Varieties of Normativity: Reasons, Expectations, Wide-scope oughts, and Ought-to-be’s

In Rachael Mellin, Raimo Tuomela & Miguel Garcia-Godinez (eds.), Social Ontology, Normativity and Law. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter. pp. 133-158 (2020)
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This chapter distinguishes between several senses of “normativity”. For example, that we ought to abstain from causing unnecessary suffering is a normative, not descriptive, claim. And so is the claim that we have good reason, and ought to drive on the right, or left, side of the road because the law requires us to do that. Reasons and oughts are normative, by definition. Indeed, it may be that “[t]he normativity of all that is normative consists in the way it is, or provides, or is otherwise related to reasons” (Raz 1999, 67) . That is what the “reasons-first” view holds, but there are also other views, and what is by definition a normative statement, or a normative fact if you like, depends on how we define normativity. It may seem that requirements are also by definition normative. But it seems that there can also be requirements that one has no reason to meet: it is less clear whether such requirements are normative in the same sense that reasons and oughts are normative. This paper will go through various further phenomena, which are candidates for being normative in some other sense than normative reasons and oughts, defending however the view that not all of them are. But arguably four or so different senses of normativity can be distinguished. The paper will accept the view that the normativity of reasons and oughts, which is here called normativity1, is central. It is an open question whether all requirements or expectations or socially constructed norms are normative in that sense. Arguably it depends on the contents and content-independent authority of the legislators, whether we have good reasons, or ought, to meet the requirements, obey the law, or to follow the etiquette, or to conform to others’ interpersonal expectations, requests, demands or prescriptions. Whether and when we do have such reasons is a difficult and important substantive question, which concerns the normativity1 of requirements of law. In another sense, norms (intended to guide behavior) are trivially or by definition normative, and constitute normativity: some forms of behavior are ruled as acceptable (e.g. driving on the right) and others as unacceptable (e.g. driving on the left) in light of the norm. Even in the case of a bad norm (that we have no reason to follow, and which ought to be changed, and ought not prevail) classifies behaviours as acceptable or unacceptable in light of the norm. Surely norms are by definition normative? Call this conformity to social norms and actual expectations normativity2. It is not an open question whether social norms are normative in that sense – they are by definition normative2. But importantly, it is an open question whether one has good reasons, or sufficient reason, or ought, to follow any social norm – that is, whether the norm in question is normative1. The first section of the article characterizes further the difference between these two senses of normativity, and additionally introduces various other candidate senses of “normativity”. These possible senses of “normativity” may be at stake in the debates about normative requirements of rationality , about so called ought-to-be -rules , about normativity of linguistic meaning , about “directions of fit” of beliefs and desires , about subjective authority of intentions and decisions and interpersonal authority or co-authority of concrete others. In later sections these cases are discussed. Do they constitute separate senses of normativity? And are the later phenomena such that they give agents good reasons: do they include normativity1 – the core sense? A “normative power -model” is suggested as a framework for examining whether actual social norms, laws, expectations provide good reasons and oughts or not. Once we understand the relation between the first two senses of normativity, do the later phenomena follow the same pattern – is the “normative powers – model” relevant for them as well?

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Arto Laitinen
Tampere University


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