Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Talbot J. Taylor

Committee Members

Leslie Cochrane

Joshua Gert

Rachel Varra


In arguing for an inferentialist understanding of conceptual contents, Robert Brandom claims that a fundamental feature of the norms that govern our concept-using practices is that they are objective. Brandom believes that the objective aspect of conceptual norms is grounded in the distinction between the normative status of a performance being a correct (or incorrect) application of a concept and the normative attitude of a performance being taken as a correct (or incorrect) application. In the first two sections of this thesis, I will offer an overview of Brandom’s inferential approach to semantics and his normative approach to pragmatics. In the third section, I will explain what Brandom calls a “deontic scorekeeping” model of discursive practice, which is the result of combining his inferential semantics and normative pragmatics. In the fourth section, I will explain why the notion of normative attitude matters for Brandom’s understanding of conceptual norms. This gives rise to his normative phenomenalism, which is the idea that normative statuses are instituted by normative attitudes. I will then point out that, because Brandom understands normative attitude as a kind of communal assessment, he needs to demonstrate how it is that conceptual norms have an essentially objective aspect, for without this his argument will be unable to avoid collapsing into the position that whatever the community takes to be correct is correct. Finally, I will examine Brandom’s account of the objectivity that he takes conceptual norms to have and further argue that although this account satisfies a weak notion of objectivity, it is not compatible with Brandom’s overall phenomenalist approach toward conceptual norms.