Social and instrumental normativity

I’m reading Daniel Dennet’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds. A passage on page 40 is perhaps more timely and urgent that the author would have imagined at the time of writing. It’s about understanding the reasons for other people holding certain beliefs or acting in a particular way. A couple of quotes from the book:

Those who cannot explain themselves or cannot be moved by the reasons offered by others, those who are “deaf to” the persuasion of advisors, are rightly judged to be of diminished responsibility and are treated differently by law.

This “normativity” is the foundation of ethics: the ability to appreciate how reason-giving ought to go is a prerequisite for appreciating how life in society ought to go.

I come to think of one person in particular who “cannot be moved by the reasons offered by others”, in this case the global community of scientists. A person with no respect to facts and reason. A person that thus acts outside of accepted norms. I’m of course referring to president Trump.

With this person’s denial of rationality and reason he is obviously of “diminished responsibility” and should thus be treated differently by law. Which fortunately seems to be happening with federal courts ordering stays on his erratic executive orders.

My hope is that he will eventually succumb to both social normativity, the social norms for communication and collaboration, and instrumental normativity, the judgement of logic and nature itself.

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