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Aims and Norms: Action, Belief, and Emotion

Published: 6 July 2011

Workshop Series Announcement

The British Academy
The British Academy

As part of our Aims and Norms Research Project (details below), Philosophy at Southampton will host a series of one-day workshops on so-called ‘teleological’ accounts of normativity.

  • Aims and Norms: Belief, September 23rd 2011.
    Presenters: Anandi Hattiangadi (Oxford) Andrew Reisner (McGill), Bart Streumer (Reading)
  • Aims and Norms: Action, 20th January 2012.
    Presenters: Maria Alvarez (KCL); Matthew Chrisman (Edinburgh); Conor McHugh (Southampton); Nishi Shah (Amherst).
  • Aim and Norms: Reasoning, 18th January
    Presenters: Clayton Littlejohn (KCL); Sasha Mudd (Southampton); Anders Nes (Oslo); Kieran Setiya (Pittsburgh)


The workshops are funded by the British Academy, the Mind Association, the Centre for the Study of the Mind in Nature at the University of Oslo, the University of Southampton’s Adventures in Research Scheme, and the Faculty of Humanities.

The Southampton Aims and Norms Research Project

Actions, beliefs, and emotions are subject to norms—they can be right or wrong, justified or unjustified, appropriate or inappropriate. But while judgments of this type are familiar, there remain pressing philosophical questions about the nature of norms and their grip on us. When is a belief, action, or emotion right or wrong, justified or unjustified? What makes this the case? And how are we able to respond to norms?

In tackling such questions, philosophers typically treat norms of action quite separately from those of belief, and pay little attention to norms of other attitudes. This series of workshops will explore the possibility of a unified treatment of norms in all these domains. The workshops will focus on the hypothesis that belief and action have aims—e.g. that belief aims at truth, and that action aims at the good. Given this proposal, norms for belief and action can be understood as rules which help to achieve these aims.

However, while suggestive, these ideas remain elusive. Despite an explosion of interest in these issues in the recent literature, there is little consensus on what it might be for belief and action to have aims, or on what these aims might be. This makes adequately evaluating the proposal impossible. Moreover, it is surprising that almost no attempt has been made to consider whether the approach can be extended to account for the norms of emotions.

The workshop series will provide a forum for innovative new research on these issues.

Organisers: Conor McHugh, Jonathan Way and Daniel Whiting.

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