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Practices, Perception, and Normative States

Zahle, Julie (2009) Practices, Perception, and Normative States. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Theories of practice are widespread within the humanities and the social sciences. They reflect the view that the study of, and theorizing about, social practices hold the key to a proper understanding of social life or aspects thereof. An important subset of theories of practice is ability theories of practice. These theories focus on the manner in which individuals draw on their abilities, skills, know-how, or practical knowledge when participating in social practices. In this dissertation, I concentrate on ability theories of practice as advanced within the social sciences and the philosophy of the social sciences. Ability theorists within these two fields stress individuals' ability to act appropriately in situations of social interaction. But how, more precisely, is this ability to be understood? The thesis I develop and defend provides a partial answer to this important question: In situations of social interaction, individuals' ability to act appropriately sometimes depends on their exercise of the ability directly to perceive normative states specified as the appropriateness of actions. In the first part of the dissertation, I introduce and motivate this thesis. I provide an overview of ability theories of practice and, against that background, I present my thesis. Though generally unexplored, influential ability theorists have toyed with the thesis. Or, their theories invite an extension in this direction. For this reason, I argue, the thesis constitutes a natural way in which further to develop their approach. In the second part of the dissertation, I develop and defend my thesis. First, I present a plausible way in which to make ontological sense of the claim that normative states are sometimes directly perceptible. Next, I offer an account of perception and argue that, by its lights, individuals sometimes have the ability directly to perceive normative states. Finally, I briefly show that individuals' ability to act appropriately sometimes depends on their exercise of this ability directly to perceive normative states. From both a practical and a theoretical perspective, the development and defense of this thesis constitutes a valuable elaboration of the basic approach associated with ability theories of practice.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairMachamer, Peterpkmach@pitt.eduPKMACH
Committee CoChairBrandom, Robertrbrandom@pitt.eduRBRANDOM
Committee MemberMcGuire, Jamesjemcg@pitt.eduJEMCG
Committee MemberMcDowell, Johnjmcdowel@pitt.eduJMCDOWEL
Committee MemberMitchell, Sandrasmitchel@pitt.eduSMITCHEL
Date: 25 June 2009
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 14 January 2009
Approval Date: 25 June 2009
Submission Date: 15 March 2009
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History and Philosophy of Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: affordances; nonconceptual content; norms; perception as inferential; philosophy of the social sciences
Other ID:, etd-03152009-063950
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:32
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:37


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