Society and normativity

Normativity is one of the keywords of contemporary philosophical discussions. It is clear that philosophy has to do not only with theories, but also with norms (especially in ethics); but more and more current philosophers are busy arguing that, in addition, those parts of philosophy where norms are prima facie not in high focus, such as philosophy of language or philosophy of mind, have kinds of "normative dimensions". However, not everybody subscribes to this enthusiasm for normativity. Within philosophy, there is, for example, an ongoing fierce discussion between 'normativists' and 'anti-normativists' about the normativity of meaning1 . A similar, thought I think both much broader and much deeper discussion concerning normativity has been launched within the context of philosophical and scientific accounts for human societies. Should we, explaining how a society works, merely state the facts concerning the behavior of the members of the society in the way natural scientists describe the behavior of ants in an anthill, or how they describe the 'behavior' of particles in an atom, or do we, over and above this, need to take a recourse to some 'normative facts'? This dispute, of course, partly reincarnates of traditional debate about the differences between Geisteswissenschaften and Naturwissenschaften as we know it from Dilthey, Schleimermacher or Max Weber; in this very specific form it, however, acquires a rather 2 transparent shape, in which it seems it might be resolvable by critical scrutiny . The current dispute is fuelled by the anti-normativists' rejection of normativism as the general claim that to account for human societies (and their products, such as meanings), we need to account for something over and above ordinary, causal, scientific facts; whereas the 'normativists' argue that to have a truly explanatory account of human societies, human languages or human practices we cannot make do stating what there is – that in some sense we need to say something about what ought to be..
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