Normative Characterization in Empirical Explanation

Citation data:

THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science, ISSN: 0495-4548, Vol: 30, Issue: 2, Page: 271-286

Publication Year:
2015
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Repository URL:
http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/12150
DOI:
10.1387/theoria.11957
Author(s):
Mark Bauer
Publisher(s):
UPV/EHU Press, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea / Universidad del PaĆ­s Vasco
Tags:
Arts and Humanities
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article description
Normative characterization is a commonplace feature of biological and cognitive explanation. Such language seems to commit the biological and cognitive sciences to the existence of natural norms, but it is also difficult to understand how such normativity fits into a natural world of physical causes and forces. I propose to map normativity onto systems stabilized by counteractive constraints. Such a mapping, I believe, can explain normativity's causal-explanatory role in biological and cognitive inquiry. The common approach in the literature is to derive an account of natural normativity by way of a particular theory of function. I avoid that approach here and attempt to address directly the sort of physical systems that might satisfy naturalizing criteria for normativity. This has the advantages, I think, of allowing an account of normativity without first having to decide the correct theory of function as well as allowing for the theoretical possibility that normative and functional explanation might come apart within empirical explanation.

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