Normativity gives reasons their force, makes words meaningful, and rules and laws binding. It is present whenever we use such terms as "correct," "ought," "must," and the language of obligation, responsibility, and logical compulsion. Yet normativists admit that the idea of a non-causal normative realm and a body of normative objects is spooky. Explaining the Normative is the first systematic, historically grounded critique of normativism. It identifies the standard normativist pattern of argument, and shows how this pattern depends on circularities, preferred descriptions, problematic transcendental arguments, and regress arguments ending in mysteries.
The book considers a paradigm case: legal normativity as constructed by Hans Kelsen. This case exemplifies the problems with normativist arguments, but also shows how normativism was constructed as an alternative to ordinary social science explanation. The normativist argument is that social science explanations themselves are forced to rely on normative concepts, on normative rationality, and on a normative view of "concepts" themselves.
Empathic understanding of the reasoning of others can solve the regress problems about meaning and rationality central to the appeal of normativism. This approach has no need of a parallel normative world, and has a surprising and revealing lineage in the history of philosophy, as well as a basis in neuroscience.