CFP: The True, the Valid and the Normative - San Raffaele School of Philosophy 2022

Submission deadline: May 31, 2022

Conference date(s):
September 20, 2022 - September 22, 2022

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Conference Venue:

Faculty of Philosophy , Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milano
Cesano Maderno, Italy

Topic areas


The inquiry into the concepts of true and false has generally privileged, in contemporary philosophy, apophantic truth, that is, the truth of dicta (sentences, propositions, statements, or utterances). However, the predicates ‘true’ and ‘false’ seem to also apply to other entities apart from dicta. Amedeo Giovanni Conte, among others, brought back attention to the not infrequent cases where we speak of the truth and falsity of res, of things. In what sense, for instance, can we speak of true gold, a true diamond, a true warrior, or the true Kant? And in what sense can we speak of false gold, a false diamond, a false name, a false will, or a false banknote? Further, can we argue that a true warrior ought to be brave? The answer to such questions seems to imply the distinction introduced by Conte (2016) between two species of truth: de dicto, or semantic truth, which specifically pertains to a dictum qua dictum, and de re, or ontological truth, which generally pertains to a res qua res, to a thing qua thing. What are the relations between the two species of truth? What do they have in common, and in what do they differ?

The introduction of the distinction between de re and de dicto truth into the debate on normativity and related issues discloses new perspectives that participants in this School are invited to explore. What is at stake are, on the one hand, the nature and scope of de dicto truth and de re truth respectively, along with their relations to one another; on the other hand, the possible impact of these two notions on the investigations on normativity and its sources, as well as on the notions of validity and effectiveness of norms.

When considering the issue of the scope of de dicto truth, one may ask whether de dicto truth is to be predicated exclusively of apophantic sentences or constative utterances (Austin 1950; 1962), or whether it can be predicated also of anapophantic sentences, such as performative sentences—which appear to be self-verifying. Given that a similar form of self-verification seems to be implied also in prescriptive sentences, what kind of facts, or states-of-affairs are brought about by such sentences? Is it possible to speak of “deontic states-of-affairs” (Conte 1970; 2006; see also Sbisà 2014 on deontic states and deontic objects)? What would be the implications for the investigation of the relations between truth and validity of norms? Notably, can the validity of norms—at least when norms are understood as prescriptive sentences—be conceived as a form of de dicto truth, that is, as the correspondence to a deontic reality? Is such a deontic reality to be understood exclusively as a product of prescriptive sentences, or is it also possible to conceive a pre-existent deontic reality? What would be the implications as to the possibility of applying logic to norms?

When considering the notion of de re truth, on the other hand, what can be its implications for the philosophy of the normative? Notably, is there a relation between de re truth and the normative and axiological dimensions of reality?

The fact that we call invalid banknotes “false” banknotes suggests, for instance, that at least in the domain of institutional phenomena the de re truth or falsity of an entity is directly linked to and conditioned by the very norms or constitutive rules that determine the validity conditions of that entity. Should we speak here of a “normative truth of things”? Can it be argued, conversely, that in other circumstances specific oughts or norms can be derived from the de re truth of an entity—like when we say that a true warrior ought to be brave, as suggested by Edmund Husserl (1900-1901)? Is this a further kind of normative truth of things? How does the concept of de re truth relate to the notion of “eidetic legality”? Can it be fruitful for the determination of the bonds and constraints that phenomena lay upon thought, language, action, and reality?

Warrior is also a good example of what scholars have recently called ‘dual character concepts’—concepts that encode both a descriptive dimension and an independent normative dimension for categorization (Knobe, Prasada, & Newman 2013; Leslie 2015; Reuter 2019). When is a person appropriately categorised as a true warrior? Can the notion of de re truth help us illuminate the normative dimension of dual character concepts?

A final aspect of the investigation of the relations between truth and normativity concerns the controversial notion of the effectiveness of norms. Some legal philosophers maintain that the existence of norms should be identified with their effectiveness within a social group, and that consequently an ineffective norm is not a de re true norm. Others suggest that satisfaction, or fulfilment, rather than validity, should be considered as the deontic análogon of de dicto truth in the logic of imperatives and norms. Both these perspectives, however, arouse the following question: are all norms capable of being fulfilled? For instance, a norm establishing that one’s legal capacity begins with birth does not seem to be fulfillable at all, since it does not prescribe any behaviour. Furthermore, does the fulfilment of a norm exhaust the possible ways in which a norm affects an agent’s behaviour? For instance, if we consider a poker cheater, aren’t the rules of poker, despite not being fulfilled, still operating and impacting on her/his behaviour when s/he hides an ace up his sleeve—as suggested by the notion of “nomotropic behaviour” introduced by Conte (2000; 2016)? How does the phenomenon of nomotropic behaviour relate to the notions of both de dicto and de re truth of norms?

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