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The Normative Animal?On the Anthropological Significance of Social, Moral, and Linguistic Norms$
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Neil Roughley and Kurt Bayertz

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190846466

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190846466.001.0001

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The Normativity of Meaning Revisited

The Normativity of Meaning Revisited

(p.295) 15 The Normativity of Meaning Revisited
The Normative Animal?

Hans-Johann Glock

Oxford University Press

The question of whether meaning is inherently normative has become a central topic in philosophy and linguistics. It also has crucial implications for anthropology and for understanding the evolution of language. This chapter defends the normativity of meaning against some recent challenges. Anti-normativists contend that while there are “semantic principles”—aka explanations of meaning—specifying conditions for the correct application of expressions, these are either not genuinely normative or they are not in fact constitutive of meaning. This dilemma can be defused if one clarifies the notions of norm, rule, and convention, distinguishes different dimensions of semantic normativity, and pays attention to different types of mistakes that can afflict linguistic behaviour. One needs to keep apart: norms of truth and of meaning, regulative and constitutive rules, rules and the reasons for following or disregarding them, pro tanto and all things considered obligations. On that basis the chapter argues that correctness is a normative notion and that constitutive rules in general and explanations of meaning in particular play various normative roles in linguistic practices. Furthermore, while speakers may conform to and occasionally violate semantic principle for defeasible prudential reasons, this is perfectly compatible with the principles having a normative status. The final section discusses the question of whether human communication requires communally shared rules or conventions and the age-old problem of circularity: how could such conventions be essential to language, given that the latter appears prerequisite for establishing and communicating conventions in the first place?

Keywords:   meaning, semantic normativity, naturalism, rule-following, constitutive rule, categorical imperative, correctness, convention, Wittgenstein, Davidson, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Saul Kripke, David Lewis, H.L.A. Hart

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