Monday, February 14, 2005

Normative pragmatism and Naturalism

Brandom makes following distinctions between various types of pragmatism:

Methodological pragmatism:

“Pragmatism of this sort seems semantics as answering to pragmatics in the sense that pragmatic theory supplies the explanatory target of semantic theory – and hence is the ultimate source of the criteria of adequacy according to which the success of that theoretical enterprise is to be assessed.” (Robert Brandom, "Pragmatics and pragmatisms" in Hilary Putnam: Pragmatism and Realism, pp. 40-58 here p. 42).

Semantic pragmatism:

“A related, but I believe distinguishable, sot of pragmatism takes as its point of departure the plausible view that it is the way practitioners use expressions that makes them mean what they do.”

Fundamental pragmatism:

“It is characteristic of pragmatists in the broad sense to see knowing how as having a certain kind of explanatory priority over knowing that. This is one influential form taken by an insistence on the explanatory primacy of the practical over theoretical. Explicit theoretical beliefs can be made intelligible only against a background of implicit practical abilities.” (ibid. p. 46).

Normative pragmatism:

“any pragmatics whose concept of practice is a serious candidate for playing three roles [methodological, semantic and fundamental] must employ normative vocabulary.” (ibid. p. 48).

[Brandom takes Kant to be the greatest exponent of this kind of pragmatism].

Normative pragmatism and Naturalism:

However Brandom adds that normative pragmatism is compatible with naturalism:

“It should not be assumed that commitment to a normative pragmatics is incompatible with pursuing both one’s pragmatic theory and one’s semantic theory in a naturalistic spirit. Normative pragmatics is incompatible with naturalism only in the context of some sort of dualistic understanding of the relation between normative and the natural. One might accept that the discursive practice to which methodological, semantic and fundamental pragmatism are addressed must be susceptible to specification in normative terms . . . without giving up hope for an ultimately naturalistic account of the applicability of such normative assessments. (Of course, a great deal will turn on what one means by ‘naturalistic’. . . .)” [ibid. pp. 49-50].

Elsewhere when Brandom opposes naturalism to normative accounts it is clear he is using naturalism in a narrow sense (this is shown by his contrasting non naturalistic normative account to supernaturalism).

“I don’t think there is a natural scientific story to be told about this sort of conceptual normativity. But that is not to say that it is supernatural. I think it is an essentially social phenomenon . . . .” An interview with Brandom.

1 comment:

Ali Rizvi said...

BTW Brandom interview I refer to in the post is highly recommended. It is available online:

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