Normativism, Anti-Normativism and Humanist Pragmatism

Stephen P. Turner: Explaining the Normative. Polity Press, Cambridge, 2010, pbk. $24.95, hbk. $69.95, 228 pp + index

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The lionised language is Turner’s; p. vii; for more on their debate see Turner 2007 and Rouse 2007.

  2. 2.

    Expressions of frustration, even within the ranks of normativists, about what Turner refers to as mystery-mongering are by no means rare. Indeed, the term “mysterionism” has been coined to characterise just such a position. Attacks on it, and other forms of normativism that refuse to carry the explanatory burden (e.g. various forms of “quietism”), are arguably growing in number, e.g. see McPherson 2010.

  3. 3.

    In this respect, Turner aptly reminds us of Kant being disciplined for “theological disputation under the guise of philosophy”, as when he argued on the basis of his philosophy against “certain religious doctrines of which he disapproved”: p. 143; see Hunter 2005 for details.

  4. 4.

    Turner refers to a forthcoming paper, not yet available, that further elaborates on his notion of “following the thought of another.”

  5. 5.

    Here, Turner cites and endorses a great paper by Paul Roth (2003), which criticises, inter alia, the idea that our judgement of mistakes is necessarily based on our application of pre-existing rules.

  6. 6.

    In fact, this raises the interesting question—which unfortunately I can only mention here—as to what exactly Turner means by empathy. For instance, Turner does not discuss the difference between empathy and sympathy. As Jesse Prinz points out, the difference is that in empathy we are obliged to share the feelings of who we observe/interpret/interact with; in sympathy, we sympathise with the feelings of the other without sharing them (as when a parent sympathises with a child who feels scared in the dark, but does not feel the fear themselves): see Prinz 2007, pp. 82–83. Is it empathy or sympathy, then, that Turner has in mind? Given what he says about making others intelligible on the basis of what we know about ourselves, it seems that it is sympathy—but then empathy is a badly chosen term.

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Correspondence to Maksymilian Del Mar.

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Del Mar, M. Normativism, Anti-Normativism and Humanist Pragmatism. Hum Stud 33, 305–323 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10746-010-9155-8

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