Norms, normative principles, and explanation: On not getting is from ought

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 32 (3):329-364 (2002)
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It seems that hope springs eternal for the cherished idea that norms (or normativeprinciples) explain actions or regularities in actions. But it also seems thatthere are many ways of going wrong when taking norms and normative principlesas explanatory. The author argues that neither norms nor normative principles—insofar as they are the sort of things with normative force—is explanatoryof what is done. He considers the matter using both erotetic and ontic models ofexplanation. He further considers various understandings of norms. Key Words: explanation • norms • social science • rationality.



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David Henderson
University of Warwick