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Action Explanations Are Not Inherently Normative



“Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.”

Hamlet, act II, scene ii

Abstract:  Inherent normativity is the claim that intentional action explanations necessarily have to comply with normatively understood rationality constraints on the ascribed propositional attitudes. This paper argues against inherent normativity in three steps. First, it presents three examples of actions successfully explained with propositional attitudes, where the ascribed attitudes violate relevant rationality constraints. Second, it argues that the inference rules that systematise propositional attitudes are qualitatively different from rationality constraints both in their justification and their recipients. Third, it rejects additional conditions on propositional attitudes, which purport to necessitate a normative commitment. Thus, inherent normativity is rejected; and with it the claim that intentional action explanations differ substantially from other explanations because they are inherently normative.