Norm (philosophy)

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Norms are concepts (sentences) of practical import, oriented to effecting an action, rather than conceptual abstractions that describe, explain, and express. Normative sentences imply "ought-to" types of statements and assertions, in distinction to sentences that provide "is" types of statements and assertions. Common normative sentences include commands, permissions, and prohibitions; common normative abstract concepts include sincerity, justification, and honesty. A popular account of norms describes them as reasons to take action, to believe, and to feel.

In non-functional linguistics, a sentence is a textual unit consisting of one or more words that are grammatically linked. In functional linguistics, a sentence is a unit of written texts delimited by graphological features such as upper case letters and markers such as periods, question marks, and exclamation marks. This notion contrasts with a curve, which is delimited by phonologic features such as pitch and loudness and markers such as pauses; and with a clause, which is a sequence of words that represents some process going on throughout time. This entry is mainly about sentence in its non-functional sense, though much work in functional linguistics is indirectly cited or considered such as the categories of Speech Act Theory.

The imperative mood is a grammatical mood that forms a command or request.

Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, establishing and verifying facts, applying logic, and changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, mathematics and art, and is normally considered to be a distinguishing ability possessed by humans. Reason, or an aspect of it, is sometimes referred to as rationality.


Types of norms

Orders and permissions express norms. Such norm sentences do not describe how the world is, they rather prescribe how the world should be. Imperative sentences are the most obvious way to express norms, but declarative sentences also may be norms, as is the case with laws or 'principles'. Generally, whether an expression is a norm depends on what the sentence intends to assert. For instance, a sentence of the form "All Ravens are Black" could on one account be taken as descriptive, in which case an instance of a white raven would contradict it, or alternatively "All Ravens are Black" could be interpreted as a norm, in which case it stands as a principle and definition, so 'a white raven' would then not be a raven.

World planet Earth and all life upon it, including human civilization

The world is the planet Earth and all life upon it, including human civilization. In a philosophical context, the "world" is the whole of the physical Universe, or an ontological world. In a theological context, the world is the material or the profane sphere, as opposed to the celestial, spiritual, transcendent or sacred spheres. "End of the world" scenarios refer to the end of human history, often in religious contexts.

Law System of rules and guidelines, generally backed by governmental authority

Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been defined both as "the Science of Justice" and "the Art of Justice". Law is a system that regulates and ensures that individuals or a community adhere to the will of the state. State-enforced laws can be made by a collective legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that may elect to accept alternative arbitration to the normal court process. The formation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, and the rights encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people.

Those norms purporting to create obligations (or duties) and permissions are called deontic norms (see also deontic logic). The concept of deontic norm is already an extension of a previous concept of norm, which would only include imperatives, that is, norms purporting to create duties. The understanding that permissions are norms in the same way was an important step in ethics and philosophy of law.

Convention (norm) set of agreed, stipulated, or generally accepted standards

A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated, or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms, or criteria, often taking the form of a custom.

Duty commitment or obligation to someone or something or to perform an action on the behalf of

A duty is a commitment or expectation to perform some action in general or if certain circumstances arise. A duty may arise from a system of ethics or morality, especially in an honor culture. Many duties are created by law, sometimes including a codified punishment or liability for non-performance. Performing one's duty may require some sacrifice of self-interest.

Permission, in philosophy, is the attribute of a person whose performance of a specific action, otherwise ethically wrong or dubious, would thereby involve no ethical fault. The term "permission" is more commonly used to refer to consent. Consent is the legal embodiment of the concept, in which approval is given to another party.

A flowchart with examples of constitutive and deontic norms. Constitutive Norms vs. Deontic Norms.png
A flowchart with examples of constitutive and deontic norms.

In addition to deontic norms, many other varieties have been identified. For instance, some constitutions establish the national anthem. These norms do not directly create any duty or permission. They create a "national symbol". Other norms create nations themselves or political and administrative regions within a nation. The action orientation of such norms is less obvious than in the case of a command or permission, but is essential for understanding the relevance of issuing such norms: When a folk song becomes a "national anthem" the meaning of singing one and the same song changes; likewise, when a piece of land becomes an administrative region, this has legal consequences for many activities taking place on that territory; and without these consequences concerning action, the norms would be irrelevant. A more obviously action-oriented variety of such constitutive norms (as opposed to deontic or regulatory norms) establishes social institutions which give rise to new, previously inexistent types of actions or activities (a standard example is the institution of marriage without which "getting married" would not be a feasible action; another is the rules constituting a game: without the norms of soccer, there would not exist such an action as executing an indirect free kick).

Constitution Set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed

A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other type of entity, and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed.

National anthem Song that represents a country or sovereign state

A national anthem is generally a patriotic musical composition that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions, and struggles of its people, recognized either by a nation's government as the official national song, or by convention through use by the people. The majority of national anthems are marches or hymns in style. The countries of Latin America, Central Asia, and Europe tend towards more ornate and operatic pieces, while those in the Middle East, Oceania, Africa, and the Caribbean use a more simplistic fanfare. Some countries that are devolved into multiple constituent states have their own official musical compositions for them ; their constituencies' songs are sometimes referred to as national anthems even though they are not sovereign states.

Politics refers to a set of activities associated with the governance of a country, or an area. It involves making decisions that apply to members of a group.

Any convention can create a norm, although the relation between both is not settled.

There is a significant discussion about (legal) norms that give someone the power to create other norms. They are called power-conferring norms or norms of competence. Some authors argue that they are still deontic norms, while others argue for a close connection between them and institutional facts (see Raz 1975, Ruiter 1993).

Linguistic conventions, for example, the convention in English that "cat" means cat or the convention in Portuguese that "gato" means cat, are among the most important norms.

Games completely depend on norms. The fundamental norm of many games is the norm establishing who wins and loses. In other games, it is the norm establishing how to score points.

Major characteristics

One major characteristic of norms is that, unlike propositions, they are not descriptively true or false, since norms do not purport to describe anything, but to prescribe, create or change something. Some people say[ weasel words ] they are "prescriptively true" or false. Whereas the truth of a descriptive statement is purportedly based on its correspondence to reality, some philosophers, beginning with Aristotle, assert that the (prescriptive) truth of a prescriptive statement is based on its correspondence to right desire. Other philosophers maintain that norms are ultimately neither true or false, but only successful or unsuccessful (valid or invalid), as their propositional content obtains or not (see also John Searle and speech act).

There is an important difference between norms and normative propositions, although they are often expressed by identical sentences. "You may go out." usually expresses a norm if it is uttered by the teacher to one of the students, but it usually expresses a normative proposition if it is uttered to one of the students by one of his or her classmates. Some ethical theories reject that there can be normative propositions, but these are accepted by cognitivism. One can also think of propositional norms; assertions and questions arguably express propositional norms (they set a proposition as asserted or questioned).

Another purported feature of norms, it is often argued, is that they never regard only natural properties or entities. Norms always bring something artificial, conventional, institutional or "unworldly". This might be related to Hume's assertion that it is not possible to derive ought from is and to G.E. Moore's claim that there is a naturalistic fallacy when one tries to analyse "good" and "bad" in terms of a natural concept. In aesthetics, it has also been argued that it is impossible to derive an aesthetical predicate from a non-aesthetical one. The acceptability of non-natural properties, however, is strongly debated in present-day philosophy. Some authors deny their existence, some others try to reduce them to natural ones, on which the former supervene.

Other thinkers (Adler, 1986) assert that norms can be natural in a different sense than that of "corresponding to something proceeding from the object of the prescription as a strictly internal source of action". Rather, those who assert the existence of natural prescriptions say norms can suit a natural need on the part of the prescribed entity. More to the point, however, is the putting forward of the notion that just as descriptive statements being considered true are conditioned upon certain self-evident descriptive truths suiting the nature of reality (such as: it is impossible for the same thing to be and not be at the same time and in the same manner), a prescriptive truth can suit the nature of the will through the authority of it being based upon self-evident prescriptive truths (such as: one ought to desire what is really good for one and nothing else).

Recent works maintain that normativity has an important role in several different philosophical subjects, not only in ethics and philosophy of law (see Dancy, 2000).

See also

Further reading

Related Research Articles

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Non-cognitivism is the meta-ethical view that ethical sentences do not express propositions and thus cannot be true or false. A noncognitivist denies the cognitivist claim that "moral judgments are capable of being objectively true, because they describe some feature of the world". If moral statements cannot be true, and if one cannot know something that is not true, noncognitivism implies that moral knowledge is impossible.

In philosophical ethics, the term, naturalistic fallacy, was introduced by British philosopher G. E. Moore in his 1903 book Principia Ethica. Moore argues it would be fallacious to explain that which is good reductively, in terms of natural properties such as pleasant or desirable.

Normative ethics is the study of ethical action. It is the branch of philosophical ethics that investigates the set of questions that arise when considering how one ought to act, morally speaking.

Philosophy of law branch of philosophy and fundamental discipline of law

Philosophy of law is a branch of philosophy and jurisprudence that seeks to answer basic questions about law and legal systems, such as "What is law?", "What are the criteria for legal validity?", "What is the relationship between law and morality?", and many other similar questions.

Moral relativism may be any of several philosophical positions concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures. Descriptive moral relativism holds only that some people do in fact disagree about what is moral; meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong; and normative moral relativism holds that because nobody is right or wrong, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when we disagree about the morality of it.

A fact is a thing that is known to be consistent with objective reality and can be proven to be true with evidence. For example, "this sentence contains words" is a linguistic fact, and "the sun is a star" is a cosmological fact. Further, "Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States" and "Abraham Lincoln was assassinated" are also both facts, of the historical type. All of these statements have the epistemic quality of being "ontologically superior" to opinion or interpretation — they are either categorically necessary or supported by adequate historical documentation.

Emotivism is a meta-ethical view that claims that ethical sentences do not express propositions but emotional attitudes. Hence, it is colloquially known as the hurrah/boo theory. Influenced by the growth of analytic philosophy and logical positivism in the 20th century, the theory was stated vividly by A. J. Ayer in his 1936 book Language, Truth and Logic, but its development owes more to C. L. Stevenson.

Legal positivism is a school of thought of analytical jurisprudence largely developed by legal thinkers in the 18th and 19th centuries, such as Jeremy Bentham and John Austin. While Bentham and Austin developed legal positivist theory, empiricism set the theoretical foundations for such developments to occur. The most prominent legal positivist writer in English has been H. L. A. Hart, who, in 1958, found common usages of "positivism" as applied to law to include the contentions that:

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Cognitivism is the meta-ethical view that ethical sentences express propositions and can therefore be true or false, which noncognitivists deny. Cognitivism is so broad a thesis that it encompasses moral realism, ethical subjectivism, and error theory.

Is–ought problem

The is–ought problem, as articulated by the Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume (1711–76), states that many writers make claims about what ought to be, based on statements about what is. Hume found that there seems to be a significant difference between positive statements and prescriptive or normative statements, and that it is not obvious how one can coherently move from descriptive statements to prescriptive ones. The is–ought problem is also known as Hume's law, Hume's guillotine or fact–value gap.

Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good or desirable or permissible and others as bad or undesirable or impermissible. A norm in this normative sense means a standard for evaluating or making judgments about behavior or outcomes. Normative is sometimes also used, somewhat confusingly, to mean relating to a descriptive standard: doing what is normally done or what most others are expected to do in practice. In this sense a norm is not evaluative, a basis for judging behavior or outcomes; it is simply a fact or observation about behavior or outcomes, without judgment. Many researchers in this field try to restrict the use of the term normative to the evaluative sense and refer to the description of behavior and outcomes as positive, descriptive, predictive, or empirical.

In philosophy and logic, a deflationary theory of truth is one of a family of theories that all have in common the claim that assertions of predicate truth of a statement do not attribute a property called "truth" to such a statement.

Deontic logic is the field of philosophical logic that is concerned with obligation, permission, and related concepts. Alternatively, a deontic logic is a formal system that attempts to capture the essential logical features of these concepts. Typically, a deontic logic uses OA to mean it is obligatory that A,, and PA to mean it is permitted that A.

In meta-ethics, expressivism is a theory about the meaning of moral language. According to expressivism, sentences that employ moral terms – for example, "It is wrong to torture an innocent human being" – are not descriptive or fact-stating; moral terms such as "wrong", "good", or "just" do not refer to real, in-the-world properties. The primary function of moral sentences, according to expressivism, is not to assert any matter of fact, but rather to express an evaluative attitude toward an object of evaluation. Because the function of moral language is non-descriptive, moral sentences do not have any truth conditions. Hence, expressivists either do not allow that moral sentences have truth value, or rely on a notion of truth that does not appeal to any descriptive truth conditions being met for moral sentences.

According to the redundancy theory of truth, asserting that a statement is true is completely equivalent to asserting the statement itself. For example, asserting the sentence " 'Snow is white' is true" is equivalent to asserting the sentence "Snow is white". Redundancy theorists infer from this premise that truth is a redundant concept, in other words, that "truth" is a mere word that is conventional to use in certain contexts of discourse but not a word that points to anything in reality. The theory is commonly attributed to Frank P. Ramsey, who argued that the use of words like fact and truth was nothing but a roundabout way of asserting a proposition, and that treating these words as separate problems in isolation from judgment was merely a "linguistic muddle", though there remains some debate as to the correct interpretation of his position.

A modal connective is a logical connective for modal logic. It is an operator which forms propositions from propositions. In general, a modal operator has the "formal" property of being non-truth-functional in the following sense: The truth-value of composite formulae sometimes depend on factors other than the actual truth-value of their components. In the case of alethic modal logic, a modal operator can be said to be truth-functional in another sense, namely, that of being sensitive only to the distribution of truth-values across possible worlds, actual or not. Finally, a modal operator is "intuitively" characterized by expressing a modal attitude about the proposition to which the operator is applied.

Norms can be considered from different perspectives in artificial intelligence to create computers and computer software that are capable of intelligent behaviour.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to ethics: