Evaluating Bad Norms

Social Philosophy & Policy, 35:1, Spring 2018

29 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2018

Date Written: August 22, 2016


Some norms are bad. Norms of revenge, female genital mutilation, honor killings, and other norms strike us as destructive, cruel, and wasteful. The puzzle is why so many people see these norms as authoritative and why these norms often resist change. To answer these questions, we need to look at what “bad” norms are and how we can evaluate them. Here I develop and integrative analysis of norms that aims to avoid parochialism in norm evaluation. After looking and rejecting several evaluative standards, I propose what I call a comparative-functional analysis of norms that is both operationalizable/testable and non-parochial that can sort better and worse norms. One conclusion of this approach is that norms are not so much “bad” and “good” as “better” and “worse.” This approach should be of interest to theorists and practitioners alike.

Keywords: Bad Norms, Social Norms, Harm, Social Science Methodology

Suggested Citation

Thrasher, John, Evaluating Bad Norms (August 22, 2016). Social Philosophy & Policy, 35:1, Spring 2018, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3237143

John Thrasher (Contact Author)

Chapman University ( email )

Orange, CA 92866
United States
7146287343 (Phone)

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