ON THE NORMATIVE SIGNIFICANCE OF BRUTE FACTS
|Ram Neta a1 a |
a1 University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill
Sometimes there are reasons for us to think or act in certain ways. We pay our taxes, we show up on time for our classes, we refuse to assent to claims that we recognize to be inconsistent, and we refrain from wanton violence, and we do each of these things because—we assume—there are reasons for us to do them. I will express the general point by saying that there are norms that apply to us, and to our thought and action. For a norm to apply to a person is for there to be a reason for that person to think or act in a particular way—the way indicated by the norm. Perhaps this reason is one that the person herself does not in any way recognize or acknowledge. But the reason itself—whether or not it is recognized or acknowledged by the person for whom it purports to be a reason—is what I call a “norm.” For instance, I might not recognize or acknowledge various norms concerning theft. But those norms still exist, and they still apply to me; there is a reason for me not to steal, whether or not I recognize or acknowledge that reason. My failure to recognize or acknowledge such reasons does not make them any less real or any less applicable to me.
a I am grateful to Mark Greenberg, Doug Lavin, Eric Marcus, Ori Simchen, and two anonymous referees for Legal
Theory for helpful discussion of an earlier draft of this paper, and for much useful discussion of the relevant issues. I am also grateful to Enrique Villanueva for organizing the very useful conference for which this piece was written.