About this topic

The thesis that meaning or content are normative has a weaker and a stronger construal. On the weaker construal suggested by Kripke in his Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language (1982), to say that meaning is normative is just to say that the fact that an expression is meaningful entails that certain uses of it are correct or incorrect. However, many people have argued that the fact that meaningful expressions have correct or incorrect uses doesn’t entail anything about normativity in the sense of involving permissibility, requirements etc. For example, it might be incorrect to use ‘Snow is green’ because it results in a factual mistake, but it doesn’t follow from this alone that one isn’t permitted to do so. On a stronger construal, to say that meaning is normative is to say that the fact that an expression is meaningful entails that certain uses of it are permissible or required while others are not. Almost everybody grants that meaning is normative in the weaker sense, what’s at stake is whether it is also normative in the stronger sense. Anti-Normativists deny this, arguing that correctness of uses can be understood wholly in non-normative terms. Normativists affirm it, arguing that it can’t. One way they do this is by arguing that there is a sense of correct use which is compatible with making a factual mistake and does entail something about permissibility, requirements etc. For example, it might be incorrect to use ‘Snow is white’ when one doesn’t believe that snow is white or doesn’t want one’s audience to come to believe this, even though using it wouldn’t involve making a factual mistake. 

Key works Wittgenstein famously suggested that meaningfulness is to be thought of in terms of rules in his Philosophical Remarks, and Philosophical Investigations. Similar suggestions are made in Stenius 1967 which ties rules with semantic mood and in Searle 1969 and Alston 1999 which tie them with speech acts. These are examples of views which entail normativity of meaning in the stronger sense. Anti-normativist replies to the effect that meaning and/or content are not normative have been provided by Wikforss 2001Boghossian 2003Hattiangadi 2006, and Glüer & Wikforss 2009. Normativist defenses include Whiting 2007, Whiting 2009, Wedgwood 2007, and Wedgwood 2009. Most of the above assume or defend the common construal of correctness in terms of avoidance of factual mistakes. Alternative construals in terms of use in accordance with meaning have been defended by McGinn 1984 and Millar 2002.
Introductions Greenberg 2005, Glüer & Wikforss 2009
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214 found
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  1. Illocutionary Acts and Sentence Meaning.William Alston - 1999 - Cornell University Press.
    William P. Alston. difference in the scope of the rule reflects the fact that I-rules exist for the sake of making communication possible. Whereas their cousins are enacted and enforced for other reasons. We could distinguish I-rules just by this ...
  2. Thoughts on Oughts.Stephen Anderson - 2013 - Philosophy Now 99:26-29.
  3. Introduction.Brad Armendt & Kevin Zollman - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 147 (1):1-5.
    Introduction to 'Skyrmsfest: Papers in Honor of Brian Skyrms' issue of Philosophical Studies, January 2010. Remarks about Brian Skyrms and about the 10 papers in the issue.
  4. Intuitions About Disagreement Do Not Support the Normativity of Meaning.Derek Baker - 2016 - Dialectica 70 (1):65-84.
    Allan Gibbard () argues that the term ‘meaning’ expresses a normative concept, primarily on the basis of arguments that parallel Moore's famous Open Question Argument. In this paper I argue that Gibbard's evidence for normativity rests on idiosyncrasies of the Open Question Argument, and that when we use related thought experiments designed to bring out unusual semantic intuitions associated with normative terms we fail to find such evidence. These thought experiments, moreover, strongly suggest there are basic requirements for a theory (...)
  5. Meaning and the Emergence of Normativity.Aude Bandini - 2010 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 18 (3):415-431.
    Linguistic meaning has an essential normative dimension that prima facie cannot be reduced to descriptive, non-normative, terms. Taking this point for granted, this paper however aims at proposing a naturalist view of semantics - inspired by Wilfrid Sellars' original works - focused on the way the constitutive normative aspects of meaning might be properly explained and accounted for, rather than eliminated.
  6. Dictionaries and Meaning Rules.Yehoshua Bar-Hillel - 1967 - Foundations of Language 3 (4):409-414.
  7. Brandoms Expressive Vernunft. Historische und Systematische Untersuchungen.Christian Barth & Holger Sturm (eds.) - 2012 - Mentis.
  8. Normative Functionalism and its Pragmatist Roots.Dave Beisecker - 2012 - Normative Funcitonalism and the Pittsburgh School.
    I shall characterize normative functionalism and contrast it with its causal counterpart. After tracing both stripes of functionalism to the work of the classical American pragmatists, I then argue that they are not exclusive alternatives. Instead, both might be required for an appropriately illuminating account of human rational activity.
  9. The Importance of Being Erroneous: Prospects for Animal Intentionality.David Beisecker - 1999 - Philosophical Topics 27 (1):281-308.
    The question of animal belief (or animal intentionality) often degenerates into a frustrating and unproductive exchange. Foes of animal intentionality point out that non-linguistic animals couldn’t possibly possess the kinds of mental states we linguistic beings enjoy. They claim that linguistic ability enables us to become sensitive to intensional contexts or to the states of mind of others in a way that is unavailable to the non-linguistic, and that would be necessary for proper attributions of intentionality. To attribute mental states (...)
  10. Bildung, Meaning, and Reasons.Matteo Bianchin - 2012 - Verifiche: Rivista Trimestrale di Scienze Umane 41 (1-3):73-102.
    By endorsing that Bildung is a condition for thought, McDowell explicitly sets out to revive a theme in classical german philosophy. As long as the concept of Bildung is intended to play a role in McDowell’s theory of meaning and reasons, however, it is best understood in the light of its distinctive combination of neo-Fregeanism about content and Wittgensteinianism about rule-following. The Fregean part is there to warrant that reasons are objective, the Wittgensteinian move is to account for our grasping (...)
  11. Self-Knowledge, Intentionality, and Normativity.Akeel Bilgrami - 2005 - Iyyun 54 (January):5-24.
  12. Norms and Meaning.Akeel Bilgrami - 1993 - In Ralf Stoecker (ed.), Reflecting Davidson. De Gruyter.
  13. Is Meaning Normative?Paul Boghossian - manuscript
    in Christian Nimtz and Ansgar Beckermann (eds.): Philosophy - Science - Scientific Philosophy. Main Lectures and Colloquia of GAP.5, Fifth International Congress of the Society for Analytical Philosophy, Bielefeld, 2003, Mentis, 2005.
  14. The Normativity of Content.Paul A. Boghossian - 2003 - Philosophical Issues 13 (1):31-45.
  15. Articulating Reasons: An Introduction to Inferentialism.Robert Brandom - 2000 - Harvard University Press.
    This new work provides an approachable introduction to the complex system that Making It Explicit mapped out.
  16. Modality, Normativity, and Intentionality.Robert B. Brandom - 2001 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (3):611-23.
  17. Making It Explicit: Reasoning, Representing, and Discursive Commitment.Robert B. Brandom - 1994 - Harvard University Press.
    What would something unlike us--a chimpanzee, say, or a computer--have to be able to do to qualify as a possible knower, like us? To answer this question at the very heart of our sense of ourselves, philosophers have long focused on intentionality and have looked to language as a key to this condition. Making It Explicit is an investigation into the nature of language--the social practices that distinguish us as rational, logical creatures--that revises the very terms of this inquiry. Where (...)
  18. Individualism, Externalism and Idiolectical Meaning.Robert Briscoe - 2006 - Synthese 152 (1):95-128.
    Semantic externalism in contemporary philosophy of language typically – and often tacitly – combines two supervenience claims about idiolectical meaning (i.e., meaning in the language system of an individual speaker). The first claim is that the meaning of a word in a speaker’s idiolect may vary without any variation in her intrinsic, physical properties. The second is that the meaning of a word in a speaker’s idiolect may vary without any variation in her understanding of its use. I here show (...)
  19. Normativity and Correctness: A Reply to Hattiangadi. [REVIEW]Andrei Buleandra - 2008 - Acta Analytica 23 (2):177-186.
    In this paper I will present and evaluate Anandi Hattiangadi’s arguments for the conclusion that meaning is not intrinsically normative or prescriptive. I will argue that she misconstrues the way the thesis that meaning is normative is presented in the literature and that there is an important class of semantic rules that she fails to consider and rule out. According to Hattiangadi, defenders of meaning prescriptivity argue that speaking truthfully is a necessary condition for speaking meaningfully. I will maintain that (...)
  20. Primitive Agency and Natural Norms.Tyler Burge - 2009 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (2):251-278.
  21. Intellectual Norms and Foundations of Mind.Tyler Burge - 1986 - Journal of Philosophy 83 (December):697-720.
  22. Does Thought Imply Ought?Krister Bykvist & Anandi Hattiangadi - 2007 - Analysis 67 (4):277–285.
    N.B. Dr Bykvist is now based at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford. The full-text of this article is not currently available in ORA, but you may be able to access the article via the publisher copy link on this record page.
  23. Semantic Values? [REVIEW]Alex Byrne - 2002 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65 (1):201-7.
  24. Should Pride of Place Be Given to the Norms? Intentionality and Normativity.Clotilde Calabi & Alberto Voltolini - 2005 - Facta Philosophica 7 (1):85-98.
    Reasons motivate our intentions and thus our actions, justify our beliefs, ground our hopes and connect our feelings of shame and pride to our thoughts. Given that intentions, beliefs and emotions are intentional states, intentionality is strongly connected with normativity. Yet what is more precisely their relationship? Some philosophers, notably Brandom and McDowell, contend at places that intentionality is intrinsically normative. In this paper, we discuss Brandom and McDowell’s thesis and the arguments they provide for its defence. In contrast to (...)
  25. Meaning, Understanding, and Practice.Stewart Candlish - 2002 - Mind 111 (441):182-185.
  26. Thoughts and Oughts.Mason Cash - 2008 - Philosophical Explorations 11 (2):93 – 119.
    Many now accept the thesis that norms are somehow constitutively involved in people's contentful intentional states. I distinguish three versions of this normative thesis that disagree about the type of norms constitutively involved. Are they objective norms of correctness, subjective norms of rationality, or intersubjective norms of social practices? I show the advantages of the third version, arguing that it improves upon the other two versions, as well as incorporating their principal insights. I then defend it against two serious challenges: (...)
  27. The Normativity Problem: Evolution and Naturalized Semantics.Mason Cash - 2008 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 29 (1-2):99-137.
    Representation is a pivotal concept in cognitive science, yet there is a serious obstacle to a naturalistic account of representations’ semantic content and intentionality. A representation having a determinate semantic content distinguishes correct from incorrect representation. But such correctness is a normative matter. Explaining how such norms can be part of a naturalistic cognitive science is what I call the normativity problem. Teleosemantics attempts to naturalize such norms by showing that evolution by natural selection establishes neural mechanisms’ functions, and such (...)
  28. The Question of Meaning.Jeffrey Clarke - 1998 - Dialogue 37 (3):646-647.
  29. Proceedings of the Amsterdam Graduate Conference - Truth, Meaning, and Normativity.María Inés Crespo, Dimitris Gakis & Galit Weidman-Sassoon (eds.) - 2011 - ILLC Publications.
  30. Measure-Taking: Meaning and Normativity in Heidegger's Philosophy. [REVIEW]Steven Crowell - 2008 - Continental Philosophy Review 41 (3):261-276.
    Following Marc Richir and others, László Tengelyi has recently developed the idea of Sinnereignis (meaning-event) as a way of capturing the emergence of meaning that does not flow from some prior project or constitutive act. As such, it might seem to pose something of a challenge to phenomenology: the paradox of an experience that is mine without being my accomplishment. This article offers a different sort of interpretation of meaning-events, claiming that in their structure they always involve what the late (...)
  31. Truth Matters: Normativity in Thought and Knowledge.Manuel de Pinedo - 2004 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 19 (2):137-154.
    If language and thought are to be taken as objective, they must respond to how the world is. I propose to explain this responsiveness in terms of conditions of correction, more precisely, by taking thoughts and linguistic utterances to be assessible as true or false. Furthermore, the paper is committed to a form of quietism according to which the very same thing that can be thought or expressed is the case: ‘soft facts’ as opposed to hard, free-standing facts, independent of (...)
  32. Joseph Raz , From Normativity to Responsibility . Reviewed By. [REVIEW]Katerina Deligiorgi - 2012 - Philosophy in Review 32 (6):514-517.
  33. Autopoiesis, Adaptivity, Teleology, Agency.Ezequiel A. Di Paolo - 2005 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 4 (4):429-452.
    A proposal for the biological grounding of intrinsic teleology and sense-making through the theory of autopoiesis is critically evaluated. Autopoiesis provides a systemic language for speaking about intrinsic teleology but its original formulation needs to be elaborated further in order to explain sense-making. This is done by introducing adaptivity, a many-layered property that allows organisms to regulate themselves with respect to their conditions of viability. Adaptivity leads to more articulated concepts of behaviour, agency, sense-construction, health, and temporality than those given (...)
  34. Intentionality and Normativity in Advance.Maxime Doyon - forthcoming - Philosophy Today.
  35. Intentionality and Normativity.Maxime Doyon - 2016 - Philosophy Today 60 (1):207-221.
    The paper is organized around two ideas that come out in Steve Crowell’s Normativity and Phenomenology in Husserl and Heidegger and that I discuss critically in turn. The first concerns the reach of Crowell’s claim according to which the connection between intentionality, meaning and normativity is necessary in all forms of intentional experience. I make my point by considering the case of imagining experiences, which are—I argue—meaningful, intentional, but not necessarily normative in any relevant sense. The second question is about (...)
  36. Review of Anandi Hattiangadi, Oughts and Thoughts: Scepticism and the Normativity of Meaning[REVIEW]Reinaldo Elugardo - 2008 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2008 (4).
  37. Intentionality, Normativity, and Community.Pascal Engel - 2002 - Facta Philosophica 4 (1):25-49.
    Against the view that the normativity of mental content is social content, I argue that it is not, examining the views of Wittgenstein, Davidson, Brandom and Pettit.
  38. Intentionality, Normativity and Community.Pascal Engel - unknown
    Against the view that the normativity of mental content is social content, I argue that it is not, examining the views of Wittgenstein, Davidson, Brandom and Pettit.
  39. The Norms of Thought: Are They Social?Pascal Engel - 2002 - Mind and Society 2 (3):129-148.
    A commonplace in contemporary philosophy is that mental content has normative properties. A number of writers associate this view to the idea that the normativity of content is essentially connected to its social character. I agree with the first thesis, but disagree with the second. The paper examines three kinds of views according to which the norms of thought and content are social: Wittgenstein’s rule following considerations, Davidson’s triangulation argument, and Brandom’s inferential pragmatics, and criticises each. It is argued that (...)
  40. The Norms of Thought: Are They Social?Pascal Engel - 2001 - Mind and Society 2 (1):129-148.
    A commonplace in contemporary philosophy is that mental content has normative properties. A number of writers associate this view to the idea that the normativity of content is essentially connected to its social character. I agree with the first thesis, but disagree with the second. The paper examines three kinds of views according to which the norms of thought and content are social: Wittgenstein’s rule following considerations, Davidson’s triangulation argument, and Brandom’s inferential pragmatics, and criticises each. It is argued that (...)
  41. Wherein Lies the Normative Dimension in Meaning and Mental Content?Pascal Engel - 2000 - Philosophical Studies 100 (3):305-321.
    This paper argues that the normative dimension in mental and semantic content is not a categorical feature of content, but an hypothetical one, relative to the features of the interpretation of thoughts and meaning. The views of Robert Brandom are discussed. The thesis defended in this paper is not interpretationist about thought. It implies that the normative dimension of content arises from the real capacity of thinkers and speakers to self ascribe thoughts to themselves and to reach self knowledge of (...)
  42. Normativitat und Naturgeschichte.E.-M. Engelen - 2001 - Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 49 (6):889-906.
    In diesem Aufsatz wird dafür argumentiert, dass interne Relationen, die als ein Beispiel für Bedingungen des Sprachgebrauchs stehen, einer Naturalisierung unterliegen. Um dies zu zeigen, wird der Begriff der Naturgeschichte in der Verwendung von Wittgensteins späten Schriften herangezogen. Im Gegensatz zu dem weit überwiegenden Teil der Literatur, der sich allein auf Wittgensteins Äußerungen zur Naturgeschichte des Menschen bezieht und beschränkt, werden hier seine Äußerungen zur Naturgeschichte der Farben im Mittelpunkt der Überlegungen gestellt, um herauszuarbeiten wie sich das Verhältnis von Logik (...)
  43. Belief and Meaning. Essays at the Interface.Michael Esfeld - unknown
    This paper recalls the motivation for a normative account of the conceptual content of our beliefs, namely the problem of rule-following. It employs Brandom’s social, inferential semantics as a paradigmatic example of such an account of conceptual content. The conceptual content of our beliefs – and the meaning of the sentences that we use – is normative in the sense that it is determined by social, normative practices. Nevertheless, a description of content and meaning is possible. The paper argues that (...)
  44. Inferentialism and the Normativity Trilemma.Michael Esfeld - unknown
    It is common to base an inferential semantics on a social, normative pragmatics, thus conceiving meaning as consisting in certain normative relations (Wittgenstein, Sellars, Brandom). This position faces a trilemma, which is of wider application, concerning all normative statements: (1) Normative statements are true or false. Regarding a certain normative statement as true does not imply that it is true, not even if a whole community takes the statement in question to be true (cognitivism). (2) There are no normative entities (...)
  45. Davidson: Normativist or Anti-Normativist?John Fennell - 2015 - Acta Analytica 30 (1):67-86.
    This paper contests the standard reading, due to Bilgrami and Glüer, that Davidson is an anti-normativist about word-meaning. Their case for his anti-normativism rests on his avowed anti-conventionalism about word-meaning. While not denying Davidson’s anti-conventionalism, I argue in the central part of the paper devoted to Bilgrami that the constitutive role that charity must play in interpretation for Davidson puts pressure on his anti-conventionalism, ultimately forcing a more tempered anti-conventionalism than Bilgrami allows. Simply put, my argument is that two central (...)
  46. “The Meaning of 'Meaning is Normative' ”.John Fennell - 2013 - Philosophical Investigations 36 (1):56-78.
    This paper defends the thesis that meaning is intrinsically normative. Recent anti‐normativist objectors have distinguished two versions of the thesis – correctness and prescriptivity – and have attacked both. In the first two sections, I defend the thesis against each of these attacks; in the third section, I address two further, closely related, anti‐normativist arguments against the normativity thesis and, in the process, clarify its sense by distinguishing a universalist and a contextualist reading of it. I argue that the anti‐normativist (...)
  47. Davidson on Meaning Normativity: Public or Social.John Fennell - 2000 - European Journal of Philosophy 8 (2):139–154.
  48. Naturalism and Normativity.John Garde Fennell - 2000 - Dissertation, Northwestern University
    A condition of adequacy on a theory meaning is to account for the normative dimension of language use---that given what a word means one ought to use it in some ways and not in others. I distinguish five issues pertaining to meaning normativity: its reality, source, sense, scope and funding. Since accounting for normativity is a criterion for an acceptable account of meaning, I argue that the normative dimension is indeed real and thereby reject eliminative naturalistic accounts such as Quine's. (...)
  49. Is Intentional Ascription Intrinsically Normative?Jerry A. Fodor & Ernest Lepore - 1993 - In B. Dahlbom (ed.), Dennett and His Critics. Blackwell.
    In a short article called “Mid-Term Examination: Compare and Contrast” that epitomizes and concludes his book The Intentional Stance, D. C. Dennett (1987) provides a sketch of what he views as an emerging Interpretivist consensus in the philosophy of mind. The gist is that Brentano’s thesis is true (the intentional is irreducible to the physical) and that it follows from the truth of Brentano’s thesis that: strictly speaking, ontologically speaking, there are no such things as beliefs, desires, or other intentional (...)
  50. Biosemantics and the Normative Properties of Thought.Graeme Forbes - 1989 - Philosophical Perspectives 3:533-547.
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