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What is Normativity?


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the following programmes is required:

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Knowledge;

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Moral and Political Philosophy;

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Modern European Philosophy;

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Law, Governance, and Politics.

Basic knowledge of Analytic Philosophy, or Philosophy of Language is required.


Philosophy is differentiated from the sciences through its focus on normative questions. What is a good argument? What is the good life? Are these norms determined by us? Would this mean that different people and cultures give different answers to these questions? Or do we presuppose that there is a norm of truth and goodness independent of our actual reasoning and living?

We start the course by reading three versions of a non-naturalist answer to the question of normativity (G. Frege, F. Brentano, G.E. Moore). The main focus of the course is to engage with contemporary discussions in logic by taking our departure in John MacFarlane’s paper ‘In what sense (if any) is logic normative for thought?’.
Ultimately, we will deal with normativity in metaethics. What can we learn about normativity if we thus compare logic and ethics?

Course objectives

A student who has successfully completed this course will have:

  • advanced knowledge of some of the central issues in the history of analytic philosophy;

  • some historical knowledge of central texts regarding normativity.

A student who has successfully completed this course will be able to:

  • connect philosophical issues in theoretical philosophy with comparative issues elsewhere in philosophy;

  • discuss naturalistic and non-naturalistic answers to the question of normativity, especially of contemporary authors;

  • develop a well-argued, independently developed thesis on the question of normativity, to be presented in class and in a paper; positions of others are to be discussed in a balanced way.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars;

  • Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Paper.

Active participation during the seminar is a necessary condition for taking the exam.


  • Paper (100%).



Inspection and feedback

There will always be feedback on papers within the official deadline for grading.

Reading list

The reading list will be made known in class and on Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.

General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga.


Not applicable.