Normative Explanation and Justification

Noûs 55 (1):3-22 (2021)

Abstract

Normative explanations of why things are wrong, good, or unfair are ubiquitous in ordinary practice and normative theory. This paper argues that normative explanation is subject to a justification condition: a correct complete explanation of why a normative fact holds must identify features that would go at least some way towards justifying certain actions or attitudes. I first explain and motivate the condition I propose. I then support it by arguing that it fits well with various theories of normative reasons, makes good sense of certain legitimate moves in ordinary normative explanatory discourse, and helps to make sense of our judgments about explanatory priority in certain cases of normative explanation. This last argument also helps to highlight respects in which normative explanation won’t be worryingly discontinuous with explanations in other domains even though these other explanations aren’t subject to the justification condition. Thus the paper aims not only to do some constructive theorizing about the relatively neglected topic of normative explanation but also to cast light on the broader question of how normative explanation may be similar to and different from explanations in other domains.

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Author's Profile

Pekka Väyrynen
University of Leeds

References found in this work

Ethics Without Principles.Jonathan Dancy - 2004 - Oxford University Press.
The Scientific Image.C. Van Fraassen Bas - 1980 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
The Scientific Image.Michael Friedman - 1982 - Journal of Philosophy 79 (5):274-283.

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Citations of this work

Normative Explanation Unchained.Pekka Väyrynen - 2021 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 103 (2):278-297.
Generic Moral Grounding.Julian Jonker - 2020 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 23 (1):23-38.

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