Man as a normative creature

Research areas

Project Description

Detailed information

The perennial question on what makes humans distinctive from other animal species has been given a number of well-known answers by both philosophers and scientists, the chief among them being reason, language and culture. In our project we aim to develop and substantiate a novel approach to this question that has been underexplored so far: we, human beings, are distinctively normative creatures. More specifically, our core hypotheses are: 1) evolution of the species-specific ability to institute, endorse and follow rules put humans on a track on which they have diverged from other animals, and 2) this ability, in turn, enabled the distinctively human modes of thought, communication and cooperative culture. Crucially, these hypotheses will be developed and scrutinized not only on the level of philosophical analyses, but also by systematic drawing on meta-analyses of the up-to-date research in behavioral and cognitive sciences that has generated intriguing hypotheses about why and how this ability could evolve, by what proximal mechanisms (psychology, neurophysiology) it is produced, and how it underlies human reasoning, language and culture. In particular, we shall relate our investigations to the results of empirical/experimental research on the ontogeny and phylogeny of social cognition, collective agency, thinking and linguistic communication (studied in the field of comparative psychology, cognitive ethology, evolutionary, developmental and social psychology, evolutionary game theory, evolutionary anthropology and linguistics). Fostering in this way the cross-fertilization between recent scientific research on human sociability and philosophical analyses of rules/norms, the project promises to stimulate a change in the traditional way of conceiving human nature.

This project grows from the previous research by Jaroslav Peregrin and his colleagues carried out partly at the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences and partly at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Hradec Králové, especially within the framework of inferentialism, a philosophical doctrine proposed by Bob Brandom. It aims at assuming a still more general vantage point on rules and normativity and at their studies within a naturalistic framework proceeded by the sciences.

The publications resulting from the project: Peregrin, Jaroslav. "Is inferentialism circular?." Analysis (2017).

Contacts for cooperation

prof. RNDr. Jaroslav Peregrin, CSc., DSc. - a leading Czech logician and philosopher; as the professor at the University of Hradec Králové he concentrates on the general theory of normativity

Mgr. Ladislav Koreň, Ph.D. - the chair of the department of philosophy at the University of Hradec Králové department and a former student of J. Peregrin; his current research focuses on social and normative aspects of human thinking, reasoning and communication

Ulf Hlobil, PhD - assistant professor at the Concordia University in Montreal and affiliated faculty at the University of Hradec Králové; he is an expert on reasoning, normativity and inferentialism and a former student of Bob Brandom

Junior researchers (doctoral students of philosophy at the University of Hradec Králové)
David Kocourek (
Daniel Musil (
Jaroslav Endrle (

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