Groupement de Recherche International (GDRI) “Polinor"

Politics Institutions, Norms: A Pragmatist View

“Politics, Institutions, Norms: A Pragmatist View” (POLINOR) is a research project funded by the CNRS and directed by Roberto Frega.

Scientific project

The Network “POLINOR” aims at reinforcing the scientific cooperation between research teams involved in long lasting collaborations, putting the emphasis on the need to consolidate a pan-European research community which pursues diverse research projects within a shared common theoretical background. In order to accommodate the plurality of their research interests with a concern for the common theoretical assumptions of a pragmatist philosophy and social science, the main Network theme will be focused on normativity and its articulation in diverse practical dimensions. Normativity, conceived in its social dimension and in its practical consequences, is a vast territory whose study requires to mobilize extremely diversified disciplines such as moral and political philosophy, epistemology, sociology, political theory and political science. Our common interest is in understanding the contribution pragmatism can offer to empirical and conceptual researches on normativity, and the aim of the the Network will be precisely to discuss together the different ways in which each of the participants understands this point.

For this purpose, the Network activities will be organized according to three main thematic axes, which reflect the main research areas of involved participants: transformations of democracy, the theory of normativity, the role of institutions.

♦ The first axis on which the Network “POLINOR” intends to focus is that of the transformations of democracy, of the new practices of participation and mobilization which are being developed in informal political contexts, but also the conceptual tools needed to rethink democracy today. This theme will be explored having in view to show what are the benefits we can expect from a pragmatist approach. To do this, we will proceed in three steps: (i) questioning the position of pragmatism in relation to the major structuring lines of contemporary political philosophy, as well as in relation to the mainstream approaches in democratic theory, (ii) understanding what characterizes a pragmatist approach in its own terms, (iii) and exploring what pragmatism can contribute to the understanding of present transformations of democracy.

The second axis takes normativity as its central theme. The theme of this axis is to study normativity from the perspective of the role played by the practices in the shaping of norms and normative orders, with a focus on how norms are instituted, justified, criticized and mobilized in the pursuit of individual plans and social goals. This approach emphasizes the epistemic implications of practices and of social facts as sources of normative validity. It proceeds through the study of how norms are mobilized within normative practices in order to understand how normativity is tied to forms of social regularity. To study normativity as a practice it is necessary to develop the conceptual framework through which the practical dimension of normativity can be described in ways that keep track of its epistemic properties. The theoretical model of normative practices is expected to provide a better grasp of the grounds of justified and legitimate processes of norms fixation and revision, of how the social dimension can support processes of valid adjudication of normative claims, of how rational processes of justification can be rooted within contexts of use and mobilization. To attain these objectives I will tackle with seven research questions, each of which addresses a distinctive feature of the model of normativity as practice and explores from a different perspective the main theoretical challenges that this project takes on.

The third axis is centered on the question of the role of institutions in a democracy, and this in a double sense. First, in order to counter the disappearance of institutions as an object of study of contemporary political philosophy. Second, as in the pragmatist perspective institutions are the major players in the production of normative effects and therefore the players most likely to determine the quality of our democratic societies. That is, a pragmatist approach to democracy such as one that is at the heart of this project gives pride of place to the notion of institutions in political theory.

Because of its complexity, such an analysis of the political field can be done only at the intersection between philosophy and social sciences, involving the renewal of conceptual tools and the carrying on new pathbreaking empirically research. This is the part of the project that will be mostly concerned with interdisciplinary issues.


Scientific activities

♦ International Workshop, Re-reading J. Dewey and J. Tufts’s Ethics, Umass, Boston, Oct. 20-21 2016.

♦ International Workshop, Capabilities and Pragmatism. Between social sciences and social philosophy, Wissenschaftskolleg, Berlin, April 21-22 2016.

♦ International Workshop, Re-reading John Dewey’s Lectures in Social and Political Philosophy, 18-19 March 2016, Paris, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.

♦ International Conference, Pragmatism and the Political, 4-6th June 2015, Paris, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.


Call for participants

International Conference

Pragmatism, 4E cognitive science, and the sociality of human conduct

Paris, EHESS, 7-9 December 2016

Call for participants:

Pragmatism is receiving sustained attention in the cognitive science. Recent works have emphasized the proximities between embodied, enactive, extended, and embedded accounts of cognition and classical pragmatist theories, such as Peirce’s, James’, Dewey’s and Mead’s. Since ten years now, Jerry Fodor, one of the main proponents of classical (symbolic-computational) cognitive science, also considers what he loosely calls “pragmatism” as being the main alternative to classical cognitive science.

Still, it would be reductive to limit the relevance of pragmatism for contemporary cognitive science to its criticism of representationalism and internalism, and to its insights on the constitutive role of action in cognition, on the need to consider perception as a sensorimotor phenomenon, or on the primacy of organism-environment transactions for understanding experience and knowledge. Indeed, for classical pragmatists, human conduct was social through and through. Sociality is not made up of interactions between preexisting individuals; it is a pervasive component of how we perceive, act, reason and think.

The aim of this conference is to tackle the topic of the proximities (or differences) between pragmatism and post-cognitivist cognitive science from this very issue of sociality. How much can and/or should Dewey’s or Mead’s social psychologies and, more broadly, pragmatist ideas on situated interactions, meaning, institutions, normativity, democracy and culture be imported in current debates regarding the scope and the challenges faced by 4E cognition, notably in the field of social cognition (joint action, shared attention, collective behaviour, empathy,…)? More broadly, can the rediscovery of pragmatism in cognitive science act as an opportunity for reconsidering the relations between cognitive sciences and social sciences? This conference will gather philosophers, cognitive scientists and social scientists for addressing these questions.

The conference is part of a joint research program organized in partnership with the University of Parma, aimed at exploring the viability of pragmatism as an alternative to classical cognitive science, and the prospects of an interdisciplinary pragmatist approach for the renewal of social theory. A second international conference will take place in Parma, Italy, in the Spring 2017.

Confirmed speakers:

♦ Vittorio Gallese (Università di Parma)

♦ Mark Johnson (University of Oregon)

♦ Matthias Jung (Universität Koblenz)

♦ Charles Lenay (Université de Compiègne)

♦ Roman Mazdia (Universität Koblenz)

♦ Jean-Michel Roy (ENS Lyon)

♦ Tybor Solymosi (Mercyhurst University)

♦ Italo Testa (Università di Parma)



Conference dates: 7-9 December 2016

Venue: EHESS, Paris

Organizers: Roberto Frega (IMM-CNRS), Pierre Steiner (COSTECH/UTC).

We invite proposals for oral communications (45 minutes, including discussion). Abstracts of 400-500 words should be sent to organizers no later than July 31, 2016. Acceptance will be notified before September 15th 2016. There are no registration fees; but selected participants will have to cover their travel and staying costs by themselves.

The conference is organized with the financial support of CNRS.

Any question should be addressed to one of the two organizers, Roberto Frega

( or Pierre Steiner (


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