What is it about?

A human being is not only a social animal or a teleological animal, it is also a nomic animal, an animal that can act in light of rules. Starting from this new image of man, the author extends the investigation of normativity to other members of the animal kingdom, posing the following question: do other nomic animals exist outside the human species? Generally, the consensus tends towards the idea that non-human animals are incapable of acting in light of rules, as if this capacity were a specific characteristic of humanity excluded to all other species, but the author presents a reconstruction of the three main positive answers, put forward by a legal expert (Rodolfo Sacco), an ethologist (Frans de Waal), and a philosopher (Kristin Andrews) respectively, that may pave the way for a new field of research: ethology of normativity. In conclusion, the author presents two interesting phenomena that seem to support the notion that non-human animals actually can act in light of rules and points out how these new researches may suggest two new ideas of normativity that should be investigated further: a “normativity without language” and a “normativity without norms”.

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Why is it important?

This research can certainly enrich our image of normativity, providing new categories of investigation and opening up new research directions. I shall consider two at least. One initial research direction concerns the hypothesis of “pre-linguistic normativity” or “normativity without language.” In other words, the ethological study of normativity forces us to reflect on the hypothetical existence of social normativity outside a linguistic framework, as well as the possibility of normative thought in the absence of language (or, more precisely, on the possibility of a “non-propositional deontic thought”). An alternative direction of inquiry relates to the idea of “normativity without norms.”

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This page is a summary of: Animal Norms: An Investigation of Normativity in the Non-Human Social World, Law Culture and the Humanities, September 2018, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/1743872118800008.
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