Thursday, September 13, 2007

Making It Explicit: Norms again

The comments on the last post were helpful, so I'm going to take another stab at figuring out how implicit norms are supposed to get around the rule-following problems that are supposed to undermine explicit rules. I think I was wrong to attribute the thesis that implicit rules are too much like explicit norms. Looking back at Ch.1, a difference emerges. Implicit rules are supposed to be exemplifications of a practical ability, applying practical rules and standards. They are a form of know-how. Explicit rules are linguistic, propositional things. They are a form of know-that.

Brandom denies that know-how is reducible to know-that. Instead, I think he thinks the converse is true, know-that is reducible to or at least depends on know-how. Consequently, I'm doubtful that it is correct to say that implicit rules can be made explicit without remainder. The reason is that there is a change in kind, from know-how to know-that. Since implicit rules are exemplified in the normative attitudes held by and sanctions performed by the critters in question, there is not the threat of a regress developing. This is because there is nowhere for the interpretive regress to get started.

This is, at least, the start of the answer. It is much like the previously suggested Kantian strategy of using the faculty of judgment. Something different in kind than the explicit rules is brought in to ground the explicit rules and prevent the regress. More details need to be supplied, but I think that is roughly how the start of the story goes. The rest of Ch. 1 supplies some of the details. Brandom leans on the idea of sanctions quite a bit and more needs to be said about them. They are important and in some cases non-normative, but I don't have much to say about them at this point.


Justin said...

What I can't understand is how Brandom is invoking Kripkenstein. I want to say that he's giving the right answer to Kripkenstein, which is "I don't like that question you're asking." What moves me to say that is Brandom's refusal to answer the demand that the facts, stated in non-normative terms, settle the question of what norms characterize the critters. That seems like a flat footed rejection of Kripkenstein's question. What moves me to doubt this story is Brandom doesn't explicitly say that it's his strategy. I think it would be Brandomian to explicitly note that he's rejecting the question, what with Rorty being his teacher and whatnot.

Daniel said...

It strikes me as odd to say that implicit norms can be made explicit "without remainder", but it also strikes me as odd to say that there is a "remainder" that isn't made explicit. It's not as if we've tried and failed to describe the know-how in know-that terms. That project was hopeless from the start, and what we have done when we "make explicit" an "implicit norm" isn't an instance of rendering knowledge-how in terms of knowledge-that.

Insofar as Brandom's "making explicit"-talk makes it sound like we're uncovering something which is hidden in the object language, I think he's lapsing back into some of the analytic postures he's officially repudiated. What's notable about logic (as a paradigm case of "explicit-making" vocabulary) isn't that it was always already hidden inside any vocabulary sufficient for assertions, but that it can be, so to speak, added to any such vocabulary without affecting anything. All of the previously-existing inferential relations remain inviolate, but we've added some terms to the vocabulary: the logical terms. The inferential relations which the logical terms figure in are strictly parasitic on the pre-existing inferential relations; if any of the original inferential relations are altered by the introduction of supposedly-logical terms, then this shows that one has added non-logical terms; conversely, any inferential relations involving logical terms will be determined by some earlier inferential relation(s) which didn't involve logical terms.

To put it another way: Rather than saying that we can make implicit norms into explicit norms, we might say that in whichever game we have implicit norms, we can add explicit norms, and doing so doesn't alter any of the implicit norms of the game. The "explicit norms" aren't in charge of anything; all the work is always already covered by the implicit norms.

Adding logical terms to a vocabulary will add new implicit norms to the vocabulary (those governing the use of the logical terms), but it still seems noteworthy that in logic's case we have something we can add to a vocabulary such that 1) our added terms can interact with the older terms in a useful manner, but 2) the older terms stand in exactly the same inferential relations vis a vis one another that they did prior to the introduction of the new terms.

If I recall correctly, Brandom holds that generally the introduction of (interesting) new terms to a vocabulary is sufficient to alter the inferential relations in which the terms of that vocabulary stand to one another, since the relations in which the old terms stand to the new terms end up committing us to holding the old terms in new relations to one another; in some cases this leads to implicit norms which make mutually unsatisfiable demands, and the adjustment of our norms to eliminate these tensions is the Brandomian version of Hegel's aufhebung. Terms which "make explicit" our "implicit norms" would just be those terms which don't alter pre-existing inferential relations in this way.

(re-reading that, I seem to repeat myself a good bit. Hopefully I said something sensible at least once in there.)

Shawn said...

It could be that Brandom is implicitly rejecting the question in practice without making it explicit that he is doing that. That isn't a real answer though. I agree that it is puzzling. Kripkenstein seems to be brought in to say that the demand to characterize norms in only non-normative vocabulary is to be rejected. It also seems sort of like Brandom brings him in to say that another analytic philosopher thinks communities are important for something in the philosophy of language. Maybe Brandom's trying to pull apart (cherry-pick?) what he considers to be the good and bad bits of Kripkenstein, keeping the former and jettisoning the latter. Going back through it, the first chapter is structurally more confusing than I really remembered it being from when I read this book before.

I hesitantly think you're probably right (must hedge...) about the relation between implicit norms and explicit rules. The latter aren't hidden so much as linguistically codify the former. The assessment of logical vocabulary in terms of conservativeness looks pretty accurate. Somewhere in MIE and also in Articulating Reasons ch. 1, Brandom says that adding conceptually contentful terms is licencing new inferences in old vocabulary.

What do you mean about the analytic postures that have been repudiated? In the Locke Lectures he's all about analysis and there is traces of that in MIE. Maybe I'm not following.

Daniel said...

Brandom clearly does think that there's still a lot to be gained from the analytic project of seeing how various vocabularies relate to one another, but he repudiates the reductionist spirit in which most of the older projects were undertaken. I think his talk of "making explicit" still has a reductionist ring to it, as if the "explicit norms" were really only something hidden within the object language which analysis has brought to light.

"Codify our norms" strikes me as a formulation much to be preferred, now that you put it that way. An "explicit" and an "implicit" norm sound like they're just two views of a single norm, but this isn't as tempting with "codified" and "implicit" norms (since they're not simple antonyms). But of course, there's no point in wishing for Brandom to have used different terminology at this point; the die is cast.

(If I'm right about the relationship between explicit rules and implicit norms, then Brandom could've made things less confusing by not using such similar terminology for the two critters.)

'Twas just a minor point. (Hedge hedge....)