Descriptive and Normative


Hi John,

Yeah, I never get a lot from debate styles of discussion.
I need to get back to logical graphs anyway but I pretty
much said all I need for now about descriptive/normative.
I'm not one to make much hay out of classifying sciences,
never been good at coloring inside the lines or sticking
to one disciplinary silo. All my favorite fields merged
and mutated so many times so long ago it cured me of the
class of classification mania so endemic among Peirceans.
At any rate, you can't really disentangle the two styles
of inquiries, since the moment you say you want a “good”
description you have just introduced a normative concern.
Still, it's useful as a rule of thumb to distinguish the
two axes of value. Which is why they call it “axiology”.



On 8/1/2021 7:28 AM, johncm22 wrote:
I hesitate to enter into this debate but I would want to draw different
distinctions to normative/descriptive

I would distinguish (following philosopher Roy Bhaskar) between the
transitive and intransitive domains of science.

The transitive domain is the realm of our actual human activities as
scientists - theories, papers, grants, methodologies, experiments, debates,
disagreements etc. It is clearly value-full and normative. It is part of
the social world.

The intransitive domain is the realm of the objects of our knowledge, the
physical/material world in the case of natural science, and the social and
psychological worlds in the case of social science. In the case of the
physical world then these objects are indeed independent of us - the
universe existed before humans and will no doubt exist after us. So to that
extent the intransitive domain of natural science is descriptive/positive
although of course we can manipulate physical objects in order to meet our
interests (or not meet as in climate change!).

However, in the case of the social world then social objects - meanings,
practices, roles, structures, motives etc is always already value-full -
they are intrinsically constituted in terms of good/bad or

So, social science and natural science are broadly similar - they share a
commitment to discovering true knowledge (which in itself makes them
committed and not value-free), and they share a broadly similar abductive
(to use a Peirce term) methodology, but social science has limitations and
commitments which make it different in some ways from natural science.