Sunday, June 03, 2007

Rearticulating reasons: conservative and normative

In the second chapter of Articulating Reasons, Brandom makes a connection between logical and normative vocabulary. He says: "[N]omative vocabulary (including expressions of preference) makes explicit the endorsement (attributed or acknowledged) of material proprieties of practical reasoning. Normative vocabulary plays the same expressive role on the practical side that conditionals do on the theoretical side."
In the first chapter he says that for logical vocabulary to plays its expressive role, the introduction of logical vocabulary must be conservative over old inferences. The question is: does normative vocabulary have to satisfy the same criterion to play its expressive role? I do not think that the distinction between theoretical and practical reasoning is going to influence this. The expressive role is to make explicit commitments and endorsements. A case is made that in order to do this, the explicitating vocabulary (what an awful phrase) must not add additional conceptual material to the mix, that is, not make good new conclusions involving only old vocabulary. This is to be conservative over the old inferences though. This means that normative vocabulary is not conceptually contentful, even expressions of preference. This is mildly surprising. My next question is what makes normative vocabulary normative if not conceptual content, since it has none. Is it just a sui generis property of that sort of vocabulary? We don't get any indication about what makes some bit of vocabulary normative though, so I am hesitant to endorse that sort of strategy. I'm not sure what to make of this. Is logical vocabulary similarly normative? This might be where the theoretical/practical divide comes in if the answer is no. One might say the practical dimension somehow confers normativity on the vocabulary. Although, since the inferentialist project in AR and Making It Explicit sees beliefs as normative (or what is discussed instead of belief), it is not unlikely that logical vocabulary has a normative element to it. This element is not conceptual, so I'm unsure what it would be. To back up a little, the question of whether the addition of normative vocabulary is always conservative is an interesting one. The idea is that normative vocabulary is supposed to codify certain practical inferences that one makes, e.g. I am banker going to work so I shall wear a tie. The normative vocabulary codifies this inference to fill the role of the pro-attitude or missing premise in an enthymeme. So, would adding, say, 'should' allow inferences to conclusions not containing 'should' that were not previously allowed? Intuitively, no, although there isn't really anything more than that given in the book. I'm not sure how one would argue this point generally though. While one might let 'should' slip by as conservative, some of the other normative vocabulary is less compelling, e.g. expressions of preference.

No comments: