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.