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Celano: ontological commitment and normative bite

José Juan Moreso
p. 77–80


In his article on pre-conventions, Celano presents, what the author calls, the Ontological Commitment Thesis and the Normative Bite Thesis. In this short comment, the author argues that the two theses are together both incompatible with the idea that pre-conventions are facts which have causal powers in human behaviour; also, if the ontological thesis is abandoned, normative determination could not be obtained. In other terms, the author argues that either pre-conventions (as part of the Background) are part of our causal explanation of human behaviour or pre-conventions are abstract entities able to determine human behaviour normatively. In the first case, pre-conventions lack normative meaning, while in the second pre-conventions cannot integrate our causal explanation of human actions. Tertium non datur.

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In open access from December 2018.

First lines

Les jambes, les bras sont pleines de
souvenirs engourdis.
(Proust 1989: 5)

(I) At the very beginning, Celano presents the core of his suggestive thesis on so-called ‘pre-conventions’:

I will argue that there are entities that can be plausibly called ‘conventions’, which are neither mere de facto regularities, nor rules (norms), but that – in a sense to be specified – have both the character of de facto regularities, as well as a normative character: they are, literally, ‘normative facts’.

Pre-conventions are facts, but facts with a normative bite. They are things such as riding a bike or skiing. Celano reminds us of this opportune way of presenting Searle’s idea:

As the skier gets better he does not internalize the rules better, but rather the rules become progressively irrelevant. The rules do not become ‘wired in’ as unconscious Intentional contents, but the repeated experiences create physical capacities, presumably realized as neural pathways, that make the rules simply irrelevant. ‘...

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Bibliographical reference

José Juan Moreso, « Celano: ontological commitment and normative bite », Revus, 30 | 2016, 77–80.

Electronic reference

José Juan Moreso, « Celano: ontological commitment and normative bite », Revus [Online], 30 | 2016, Online since 01 December 2018, connection on 18 January 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/revus.3540

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About the author

José Juan Moreso

Professor of Legal Philosophy, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona

Address: Edifici Jaume I (Campus de la Ciutadella)
Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
08005 Barcelona


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