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, 2nd meeting, Alma Mater Studiorum Bologna, Oct. 9-11 2017.

♦ International Conference, Pragmatism, 4E cognitive science, and the sociality of human conduct, Paris, EHESS, 7-9 December 2016.

♦ 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.


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