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Philosophy Research Archives

Volume 3, 1977

David T. Ozar
Pages 879-895

Social Rules and Patterns of Behavior

In this paper I clarify the distinction between actions performed under a social rule and a mere pattern of behavior through an examination of two distinctive features of actions performed under a social rule. Developing an argument proposed by H.L.A. Hart in The Concept of Law, I first argue that, where a social rule exists, there nonconformity/conformity to the pattern of behavior set down in the rule count as good reasons for criticism/commendation of actions covered by the rule. Secondly I argue that, where a social rule exists, nonconformity/conformity to the pattern set down in the rule must be taken account of (at the risk of self-contradiction) in judging actions covered by the rule commendable or subject to criticism. This in turn means that, where a social rule exists, there can be no genuine exceptions to the rule because the notion of a genuine exception to a social rule makes no sense.