Brandom on the sources of normativity

One of the most unsatisfactory sections of Robert Brandom's very complex and difficult book, Making it Explicit, is, unfortunately, the very first chapter.1 Brandom's general objective in this work is to displace the concept of representation from its position as the central explanatory concept in the philosophy of language and epistemology, and replace it with some set of explanatory concepts derived from the analysis of social action or practice. In particular, he wants to argue that the concept of a social norm – a rule that determines, implicitly or explicitly, whether an action is correct or incorrect – can serve as a primitive concept in the development of a general theory of meaning. Successful execution of such a program would therefore constitute a vindication of some of the core intuitions underlying philosophical pragmatism.
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