The distinction between normative and non-normative is referenced constantly by most good philosophers, including me. There's plenty of reason for the distinction. But surprisingly, all normative statements can be expressed as non-normative ones: "X is morally right" = "one's conscience says to do X". (Note that this isn't as specific to my metaphysics as it might sound. Equivalent things could be said for most ethical frameworks, as well as for non-moral kinds of normativity.)

But this raises a question: if there's no true separation between normative and non-normative truths, why does being wrong about ethics make someone a bad person? Of course, most errors about ethics are not sincere reasoning errors, but irrationality alone is not nearly a big enough sin to warrant how I treat people who have evil political views.

The answer is that when someone says something like "XYZ drug should be illegal", they're not expressing, and do not hold (even irrationally), a belief that their conscience would approve of imprisoning someone for smoking a leaf. Remember, they don't think about conscience at all because their normative vocabulary is corrupted. They're telling you about a choice of allegiance, and more importantly, they are choosing to strengthen this allegiance by reindoctrinating themselves. This choice of allegiance is not some specter I have conjured out of the ether of language, but a concrete thing with concrete consequences:

When you live in a society, there is no true such thing as a choice that doesn't affect others. This is why being wrong about ethics makes you a bad person, despite it being theoretically a non-normative proposition.

This page was last modified 2021-12-03 00:10 (UTC).

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