Correctness and Cognitivism. Remarks on Robert Alexy's Argument from the Claim to Correctness


  • The writing of this paper benefited from the generous funding of an Odysseus Grant of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), while the final draft was completed during a three month Alexander von Humboldt research fellowship (University of Kiel) in summer/autumn 2011. Some of the ideas presented here have been developed over the years in conversations with Robert Alexy, Carsten Heidemann, and more recently José Manuel Cabra. I thank them for their valuable contribution. Further, I am grateful to CIRSFID and Ratio Juris for inviting me to participate in the conference Law and Morality: the Perspective of Robert Alexy, which was held on 12 November 2010 in Bologna. Finally, I would like to thank for valuable comments the audience at the Doktorandenkolloquium of the Chair of Public Law and Legal Philosophy at the University of Kiel, where I presented a penultimate draft of the paper in June 2011.


The argument from the claim to correctness has been put forward by Robert Alexy to defend the view that normative utterances admit of objective answers. My purpose in this paper is to preserve this initial aspiration even at the cost of diverting from some of the original ideas in support of the argument. I begin by spelling out a full-blooded version of normative cognitivism, against which I propose to reconstruct the argument from the claim to correctness. I argue that the context of uttering normative propositions points to the possibility of normative cognition, but does not constitute it. What constitutes the possibility of cognition is, as of necessity, the propositional structure of norms. I conclude that the argument from the claim to correctness ought to safeguard a distinction between the context of uttering a normative sentence and the proposition that individuates the content of the utterance.