Current Specific Research Projects

On the Normativity of Correctness

Roberto Keller - FNS

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.


Grid view

List view