At this point, we ask a further question: Are there any normative facts? Given our skepticism, asking this question is largely pointless. But, on its face, the question still seems sensible. We might continue to wonder about it, if only out of some morbid obsession with the question itself.
It seems to me, however, that this further question is not, in fact, sensible. It makes no sense to say that something is a reason for me to act in a particular way if it is not possible for me to be aware that it is a reason for me to so act. Similar claims can be made regarding values or obligations. Put simply, normative facts are inherently action-guiding. This is a conceptual claim, one I hope you share. As the primary intention of this post is not to defend this claim, I will not say anything more about why I take this to be the case, though I am happy to argue the point in comments or elsewhere. Rather, my concern is with how to express this claim, a challenge I have found surprisingly difficult.
- X is a normative fact iff X is action-guiding.
- X is a normative fact iff X is capable of guiding action. Then,
- X is a normative fact iff some possible agent is aware that X is a normative fact.
So, how do I express my claim? I have tried several ways, but all seem ultimately to run into this problem. Yet the intuition does not seem paradoxical: You may not agree with me, but surely my thought is coherent. Surely, for instance, I can create some new concept: 'arglax'. Arglaxes are inherently knowable entities. There is no such thing as an arglax that no one is aware of. Again, this is a conceptual claim, not a metaphysical one; we are not imagining some strange creature that pops out of existence if no one is aware of it. Rather, we are claiming of each thing in the world that it cannot turn out to be an arglax unless it is in principle possible for us to know that it is an arglax.