Mere formalities: fictional normativity and normative authority

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 49 (6):1-23 (2019)
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It is commonly said that some standards, such as morality, are ‘normatively authoritative’ in a way that other standards, such as etiquette, are not; standards like etiquette are said to be ‘not really normative’. Skeptics deny the very possibility of normative authority, and take claims like ‘etiquette is not really normative’ to be either empty or confused. I offer a different route to defeat skeptics about authority: instead of focusing on what makes standards like morality special, we should focus on what makes standards like etiquette ‘not really normative’. I defend a fictionalist theory on which etiquette is ‘not really normative’ in roughly the same way that Sherlock is ‘not really a detective’, and show that fictionalism about some normative standards helps us explain the possibility of normative authority.

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Daniel Wodak
University of Pennsylvania


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