Norms and Customs Can’t Cause Anything

By Todd Jones.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

One of the most common ways of explaining human behavior is in terms of norms and customs. I argue, here, that there are very good reasons to think that most such explanations are mistaken. Norms and customs, I will argue, are not the sorts of things that can cause anyone to do anything. Calling a behavior a norm may be a true description of it, but the fact that such a behavior is the norm can’t explain why anyone engages in it. If we look carefully at what norms are, and use some common ideas about the role of disjunction in explanation, we’ll see that it’s unlikely that norms can explain what we do.

Keywords: Norm, Custom, Explanation, Causation, Disjunction

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 3, Issue 6, pp.159-166. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 597.180KB).

Dr. Todd Jones

Philosophy Department Chair, Philosophy, Universtity of Nevada Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Jones’s research is focused on comparing different kinds of explanation in the social sciences. He has degrees in Philosophy, Anthropology and Cognitive Science.


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