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On the Normativity of Correctness

Applicant Keller Roberto
Number 195497
Funding scheme Doc.CH (until 2020)
Research institution Département de Philosophie Faculté des Lettres Université de Genève
Institution of higher education University of Geneva - GE
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.09.2020 - 31.08.2024
Approved amount 246'661.00
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Keywords (2)

Correctness, Normativity, Normative Guidance; Standards, Norms, Control, Error, Correction

Lay Summary (French)

Nous émettons couramment des jugements d’ordre normatif. Nous jugeons d’une situation qu’elle est bonne ou mauvaise, d’un acte qu’il est obligatoire, optionnel ou interdit, juste ou injuste, d’une croyance ou d'une émotion qu’elle est justifiée ou injustifiée. La correctitude est un membre de l’ensemble des concepts normatifs : il y a des manières correctes ou incorrectes d’écrire des mots, de calculer la surface d’un cercle, ou de former des croyances. Le but de ce projet est de comprendre ce que cela veut dire d’être correct ou incorrect et comment cette propriété normative nous guide dans nos réflexions et nos actions.
Lay summary

Le but de ce projet est de comprendre ce que cela veut dire d’être correct ou incorrect, et plus précisément : (i) comment cette notion diffère d’autres notions normatives comme les valeurs (bon, mauvais), les normes (obligatoire, optionnel, interdit) et les raisons (raisons de croire, raisons d’agir), (ii) comment les conditions de correctitude d’un acte ou d’un état mental sont établies et (iii) comment les jugements quant à la correctitude d’un acte ou d’un étant mental guident notre manière de penser ou d’agir.

Une bonne caractérisation de la notion de correctitude améliore notre compréhension générale de la normativité, mais aussi notre compréhension de certaines thèses philosophiques. Il est communément admis qu’une croyance que p est correcte si et seulement si p est vrai, que la peur de x est correcte si et seulement si x est dangereux, que x est blâmable si et seulement s’il est correct de blâmer x. Ces affirmations sont plausibles et elles promettent une meilleure compréhension du lien entre la croyance et la vérité, les émotions et les valeurs, le blâme et le blâmable, mais elles nécessitent une caractérisation claire de la notion de correctitude pour qu’elles soient informatives.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 17.08.2020

Responsible applicant and co-applicants



Correctness is one of many normative concepts that feature in our everyday thinking. We deem items, methods, and inferences correct or incorrect, but we also do so for actions, responses, and mental states. There are correct and incorrect maps of Switzerland, correct and incorrect ways of calculating the area of a circle, and correct and incorrect ways of inferring a conclusion from a set of premises. Similarly, there are correct and incorrect ways of spelling words, of using concepts, and of answering questions. More generally, to deem something correct or incorrect is to judge that (i) that thing is subject to correctness standards and that (ii) that thing meets or fails to meet said standards. While it is easy to say whether some inference or calculation is correct, it is far more difficult to characterise the nature and normativity of correctness itself. Ubiquitous as it may be in everyday thinking, correctness remains an elusive and poorly understood concept.The aim of this project is to achieve a clear and systematic understanding of the nature and normativity of correctness through careful conceptual analysis. In order to do this, two general questions need to be addressed. Firstly, it is necessary to identify the nature and source of correctness conditions, i.e., the way in which a given sort of thing sets the standards that need to be met in order for that thing to be correct. Secondly, it is necessary to understand the normative import of correctness, i.e., how correctness guides our reasoning and our actions in the way that is characteristic of other normative properties such as values, norms, and reasons.The answers to these questions will not only provide a clearer understanding of correctness, but they will be of interest to a range of debates which make extensive use of this notion. For instance, epistemologists often claim that a belief that p is correct if and only if p is true; philosophers of emotions often claim that fear of x is correct if and only if x is dangerous; moral psychologists make sense of commendable actions as actions that it is correct to approve and of blameworthiness as that property that makes one subject to correct blame. While these claims all sound very plausible, they are bound to remain uninformative lest one provide a detailed analysis of the nature and normativity of correctness.