Volume 116, Issue 1, January 2019
Three Ways in Which Logic Might Be Normative
According to tradition, logic is normative for reasoning. Gilbert Harman challenged the view that there is any straightforward connection between logical consequence and norms of reasoning. Authors including John MacFarlane and Hartry Field have sought to rehabilitate the traditional view. I argue that the debate is marred by a failure to distinguish three types of normative assessment, and hence three ways to understand the question of the normativity of logic. Logical principles might be thought to provide the reasoning agent with first-personal directives; they might be thought to serve as third-personal evaluative standards; or they might underwrite our third-personal appraisals of others whereby we attribute praise and blame. I characterize the three normative functions in general terms and show how a failure to appreciate this threefold distinction has led disputants to talk past one another. I further show how the distinction encourages fruitful engagement with and, ultimately, resolution of the question.