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Social Normativity for Legal Philosophers

27 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2008 Last revised: 7 Jun 2010

Maksymilian T. Del Mar

University of London - Queen Mary - Department of Law

Date Written: December 31, 2008


Understanding the nature of social normativity is important for contemporary analytical legal philosophy. For one, such an account may help articulate the form of the social conventions that are said to be at the foundations of the rule of recognition. This paper argues that accounts of the nature of social normativity ought not to be based on the idea that social life is governed or regulated by norms. Rather, accounts of social normativity ought to be centred on the notion of how persons learn (and unlearn) what they come to anticipate. The first part of the paper offers some illustrations of such an account. The second part of the paper shows how social normativity so conceived can avoid some of the problems that bedevil the currently dominant view (or assumption) that social life is regulated or governed by norms. These problems include, first, difficulties associated with how much deliberative reflection and awareness to demand from participants in social life (accounts of social normativity are often said to be unrealistic or hyper-committal for demanding too much of both, which is not a criticism that can be made of the account offered here); and second, difficulties caused by assuming or positing that there can be a fact of the matter, unmediated by the evaluation or judgement of persons, as to whether or not some action is correct or incorrect on the basis that it merely conforms (or not, as the case may be) to some norm or set of norms (which is not an assumption made or a position endorsed by the account offered here). The paper does not aim to provide a comprehensive statement of the alternative view of social normativity. Rather, it seeks merely to introduce it and to suggest some of the ways in which it improves on the currently dominant view.

Keywords: Normativity, social norms, order, convention, legal theory

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Del Mar, Maksymilian T., Social Normativity for Legal Philosophers (December 31, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Maksymilian T. Del Mar (Contact Author)

University of London - Queen Mary - Department of Law ( email )

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