This paper introduces the Special Issue: ‘The Roots of Normativity. Developmental, Comparative and Conceptual issues’. The contributions collected in this volume aim to present a picture of contemporary accounts of normativity that integrate philosophy and developmental and comparative psychology and purport to provide the reader with new insights regarding a classical debate about what makes us human: being governed by norms and being able to orient ourselves in the light of them. This introduction presents a broad picture of the issues at the heart of traditional discussions on normativity and lays out a set of conditions which a proper account of normativity should meet. In so doing the main common themes that unify these papers are brought to the fore. In particular, all of them share the idea that human-specific norms are themselves social. Once questions concerning the evolution of normative capacities and their development are considered, however, they pose - so it is argued - specific challenges to an account of normativity. While the traditional approaches fail to face such challenges, it is the main aim of the papers in this Special Issue to meet them. In concluding, a brief overview of each paper is provided.
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I am following here a rather ‘loose’ interpretation of the Wittgensteinian considerations on rule-following that I have defended elsewhere. This ‘loose interpretation’ can be seen as describing a Wittgensteinean trend in thinking of normativity that includes the ideas of Davidson, Sellars and Brandom among others. For more details see Satne 2008 and Satne 2015.
Cf. Brandom 1994.
In the minimal sense, shareability of a norm N can be captured by the idea that two subjects A and B can both have N as the intentional correlate of their mental states. A discussion of this aspect of norms can be found in Roessler & Perner (this volume) who understand early forms of normativity in terms of the grasping of reasons for action that are publicly shared (see also, in this volume, Brandl et al. who discuss how this shareablity can be experimentally tested).
This specification is neutral as to the kind of awareness involved. A form of minimal awareness such as the one involved in implicit knowledge where the subject cannot formulate her knowledge in terms of a rule or entertain it as an explicit content may be sufficient.
A number of authors have made this a central feature of norms, starting with Kant’s conception of self-consciousness as giving form to every rational rule. See among others Anscombe 1978; Rödl 2007; McDowell 1984; Kripke 1982 and Brandom 1994. In this issue, this aspect is addressed explicitly or implicitly by all the papers: While Roessler & Perner, Rochat and Rödl, give a central role to this aspect in their analysis—Rochat, for example, takes this aspect to be the defining feature of the uniquely human kind of normativity—it also figures eminently in Rakozcy’s conception of social rules and in Brinck’s and Brandl et al.’s analysis of normative behavior in experimental tests.
Objectivity here is supposed to account for the fact that for something to be a norm it needs to set a standard that establishes determinate constraints of correctness independently of my opinion as to whether I am fulfilling them or not (see Wittgenstein 1953, §§ 201 and 258). The condition as just described is meant to be neutral about the controversy on whether objectivity requires facts independent of communitarian consensus or not. For a defense of this condition of adequacy see McDowell 1984; Wright 2001. This aspect is explicitly addressed by Roessler & Perner, this volume.
There is widespread agreement that a condition like this is required to account for conventions and other social norms. See for example Grice 1957, 1969; Lewis 1969; Bratman 1992 and also Hume 1752. Rödl (this volume) examines what is required to have this kind of joint consciousness with a partner in interaction, specially focusing on joint intentional action. This view can be extended to other cases of joint consciousness, as is the case of social norms in Rödl’s view (see Rödl 2007, and Rödl 2014).
Rakoczy, Rochat, and Rödl (this volume) address the issue of which of these features are characteristic of human normativity and which are present in the case of non-human primates and other animals.
How is social normativity to be understood as such defining trait is open to debate among the different contributions. Some would argue that primitive forms of social normativity might be found in other species to various degrees. That notwithstanding, the full-fledged kind of social normativity characterized by the features described above seems to set apart human adults from all other beings.
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Satne, G. The social roots of normativity. Phenom Cogn Sci 14, 673–682 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11097-015-9444-9
- Human normativity
- Social norms
- Non-human primates
- Normative behavior