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ISBN 978-0-8126-9658-5


280 pages

(Winter 08)


Judith Jarvis Thomson

Judith Jarvis Thomson's Normativity is a study of normative thought. She brings out that normative thought is not restricted to moral thought. Normative judgments divide into two sub-kinds, the evaluative and the directive; but the sub-kinds are larger than is commonly appreciated. Evaluative judgments include the judgments that such and such is a good umbrella, that Alfred is a witty comedian, and that Bert answered Carol's question correctly, as well as the judgment that David is a good human being. Directive judgments include the judgment that a toaster should toast evenly, that Edward ought to get a haircut, and that Frances must move her rook, as well as the judgment that George ought to be kind to his little brother. In Normativity, Thomson describes how judgments of these two sub-kinds interconnect and what makes them true when they are true.

Thomson shows that given the extensiveness of the two sub-kinds of normative judgment, our everyday thinking is rich in normativity, and moreover, that there is no gap between normative and factual thought—our everyday thinking is rich not only in normativity, but in judgments that are factual as well as normative. The widespread suspicion of the normative is therefore in large measure due to nothing deeper than an excessively narrow conception of what counts as a normative judgment.

“With her well-known toughness of mind, Judith Jarvis Thomson develops a systematic account of the entire domain of the normative—moral and non-moral—based upon the idea of being good of a kind. She makes clear just how thoroughly normativity is woven into our daily lives and thoughts, and how wrong it is to think of the normative as mysterious or elusive. Each page brings fresh ideas and arguments. This is a book anyone interested in normativity can read with profit.”

—Peter Railton, University of Michigan

“Normativity is a careful, rigorous account of the meanings of the basic normative terms: good, virtue, correct, ought, should, and must. Along the way, Thomson refutes almost everything other philosophers have said about these topics. It is a very important book.”

—Gilbert Harman, Princeton University

“This much anticipated book intriguingly and surprisingly broadens the scope of the philosophy of normativity. Impressively broad and deeply insightful, it deserves to be widely read and discussed.”

—Ernest Sosa, Rutgers University

Judith Jarvis Thomson is Professor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author of many works in ethics, theory of action, and metaphysics. Her earlier books include Goodness and Advice (2003), The Realm of Rights (1990), and Rights, Restitution, and Risk (1986). Normativity is a revised and expanded version of her Carus Lectures for 2003.

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