What is a norm?

Here are a series of statements:

‘You must believe that Jesus is here to offer salvation from sin in order to recieve it’

‘It is wrong to kill’

‘You should get a better job’

‘Short skirts are so in this season’

What is the similarities between the above statements? They are NORMS. What are norms?

Norms are a type of fact. A fact about how the world should be, a fact about how people should behave. A normative fact is contrasted to a descriptive fact. A descriptive fact simply describes the world as it is.

Analytic philosophy has a problem: they are naturalist, the naturalist ontology cannot accept weird types of facts such as norms, because all there are are descriptive facts (‘is-facts’), not ‘should-facts’.

My concern is this: what is the nature of a norm? where does it come from? I shall take it as a given that there are norms. Here are possibilities of where norms have come from:

I. Norms correspond to objective facts (truthbearers), so there isn’t much distinction between a norm and a description

II. Norms are created by a greater power who we must obey, be it society, or God’s law.

I am a Kantian, so I like the first explanation. I am also a sociologist, so I like the second explanation. Maybe it’s a mix, like social norms are defined by society, moral norms are defined by reason. But what about religious norms? Like not eating certain meats.

When does a moral imperative become a social one? Consider homosexuality; it is the way a person chooses to live, but it is also apparently a ‘moral’ issue.

WHen we have considered norms, we have opened a real can of worms.

2 thoughts on “What is a norm?

  1. personally, i believe that norms are purely societal…and adhering to any of them (or not) is you own personal choice regarding what your stance is with being accepted in society or your lack of interest in being accepted in society…or if you deem it necessary as a vehicle for whatever personal purpose

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