Practices, Norms and Recognition

Stahl, Titus
Journal article
in Human Affairs, 2007



The problem of the social foundations of normativity can be illuminated by discussing the narrower question whether rule-following is necessarily a social matter. The problems with individualistic theories of rule-following seem to make such a conclusion unavoidable. Social theories of rule-following, however, seem to only push back one level the dilemma of having to choose either an infinite regress of interpretations or a collapse into non-normative descriptions. The most plausible of these models, Haugeland's conformism, can avoid these objections if it is supplemented with an ontologically reasonable concept of the collective attitude of a group. Groups of individuals who are bound to shared norms by recognizing each other as equipped with a standard authority of criticism have the necessary properties for ascribing to those groups such collective attitudes. Given such a weak notion of a collective attitude, there is hope for a plausible collectivist theory of rule-following.