Normativity is what gives reasons their force, makes wordsmeaningful, and makes rules and laws binding. It is presentwhenever we use such terms as correct,' ought,' must,' and the language of obligation, responsibility, andlogical compulsion. Yet normativists, the philosophers committed tothis idea, admit that the idea of a non-causal normative realm anda body of normative objects is spooky. Explaining the Normative isthe first systematic, historically grounded critique ofnormativism. It identifies the standard normativist pattern ofargument, and shows how this pattern depends on circularities,assumptions about the unique correctness of preferred descriptions,problematic transcendental arguments, and regress arguments thatend in mysteries. The book considers in detail a paradigm case: legal normativityas constructed by Hans Kelsen. This case exemplifies the problemswith normativist arguments. But it also shows how normativism wasconstructed as an alternative to ordinary social scienceexplanation.
The normativist argument is that social scienceexplanations themselves are forced to rely on normativeconceptsNminimally, on normative rationality and on anormative view of concepts' themselves. Empathic understanding of the reasoning and meanings of others,however, can solve the regress problems about meaning andrationality that are central to the appeal of normativism. Thisaccount has no need for a parallel normative world, and has asurprising and revealing lineage in the history of philosophy, aswell as a basis in neuroscience.
Stephen Turner is a Graduate Research Professor at the Department of Philosophy, University of South Florida