Naturalistic Descriptions and Normative-Intentional Interpretations

Human Affairs 17 (1):22-32 (2007)
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Abstract

Naturalistic Descriptions and Normative-Intentional Interpretations Normative pragmatists about linguistic meaning such as Sellars and Brandom have to explain how norms can be implicit in practices described in purely naturalistic terms. The explanation of implicit norms usually offered in the literature commits pragmatists to equate actions with naturalistic events. Since this is an unacceptable consequence, I propose an alternative explanation of implicit norms that avoids this identification. To do so, one has to treat the normative-intentional concepts such as "norm", "action", "sanction", "belief", "desire" as a holistic system, in the sense that one has to apply all of them to a given naturalistic practice simultaneously. This result might be taken to imply that the pragmatist strategy of explaining the content of assertions and beliefs in terms of norm-governed use is misguided because it presupposes that one can account for the concept "norm" independently of the concept "belief". I argue that this consequence does not follow.

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