Research Article

Philosophy & Technology

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 35-53

First online:

Bootstrapping Normativity

  • Graham WhiteAffiliated withElectronic Engineering and Computer Science, Queen Mary, University of London Email author 

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We compare the role of Cartesian assumptions in the symbol grounding problem and in the Myth of the Given: We argue that the Sellars–McDowell critique of the Myth of the Given and, in particular, its use of the concept of normativity can provide useful resources for responding to the symbol grounding problem. We also describe the concepts of normativity at work in computer science and cognitive science: We argue that normative concepts are pervasive in the sciences and that, in particular, McDowell’s dichotomy between the normative space of reasons and the realm of nature is somewhat problematic.


Symbol grounding problem Mental symbols Normativity Cartesianism Mental representation Spontaneity