There is another reason why norms may have been looked upon by some people as facts, rather than as separate ontological entities. It is simply because ordinary language is fraught with ambiguities. This is especially evident where modal and normative thought are formulated in a pseudofactual fashion and modal thought also in a pseudonormative fashion (if not the other way around). For example, when asserting that the chance that something will happen is small or big, this chance's being small or big is presented as a fact, and the proposition this chance is small as true or false. As suggested before, confusion between the modal and the normative may result too from mixing up may for what is possible (a modal auxiliary) with may for what is allowed, because it is not bad or wrong (a normative auxiliary). Or, it may result from mixing up must for what is necessary (a modal auxiliary) with must for what is obligatory because it is good or right (a normative auxiliary). One must eat to live is not a normative statement but expresses the modal condition that one can only stay alive if one eats.

In you must do it must is a factual-modal auxiliary, if it refers to the consequence that probably will follow, if one does not do something. It is, then, an obligation in a social or subcultural context but not as such in a normative context (altho it may happen to be normative at the same time). In a normative context something is a duty or obligation regardless of the consequences (such as punishment) which might follow, if one does not fulfil one's duty. Similarly, also the notion of right can be either a factual-modal or a normative concept, whereas commandment and prohibition are basically factual-modal notions. Whether must and may are normative or not depends therefore on the context, even when there is talk of duties or rights. It is possible to define right and duty in terms of it is (not) the case that one should (not), that is, of should (as we shall see in chapter 8), and for that reason it is not necessary to adopt a separate sphere of rights and duties besides that of norms and values.

When continuing our attempt to disentangle the factual, modal and normative threads of thought, we will find that even the word norm itself may be used for a modal standard rather than for an ontologically separate normative standard. When formulating something in a pseudodescriptive way in the normative sphere, one may say that the norm is this or that. This formulation seems particularly self-evident since it is feasible and correct to speak of psychological and sociological standards of (assumed or purported) normalcy in an empirical, 'descriptive' way. It may also be asserted that it is superior or good or proper to be or to do this or that. Also this is presented as tho it were a fact. The proposition the norm is to have .. or it is good/right to have .. is, then, said to be true or false.

An interesting case of the pseudofactual representation of modal concepts is the mathematical talk about certain kinds of numbers and about infinity. Many mathematicians and logicians have believed that their imaginative constructions would be as real as their paper and ink, as long as they were free from contradictions. These mathematicians or logicians did not realize that they were merely talking about the possibility of existence, that is, merely about modal existence, and not about factual existence. For example, if infinity exists at all, then its modal nature is incorporated into the definition or concept itself. This is clearly so in the following definition of an infinite set: a set capable of being put into one-to-one-correspondence with a proper part of itself; and in that of infinity: the limit of a function which can be made to become and remain numerically larger than any preassigned value. To say that infinity in this sense exists is, then, not a factual but a modal statement. Other definitions, however, are pseudofactual, like infinite which is extending or lying beyond any preassigned value however large, or infinity which is unlimited extent of time, space or quantity or indefinitely great number or amount. It is especially these latter types of definition which do implicitly presuppose some kind of modality, but which only mention 'facts', which have caused people to believe that (the existence of) infinity would be of the same nature as that of this paper and ink. They have thus come to believe in numbers like in angels, and in sets like in gods. Even if there actually were no set in the whole universe with that particular dimension, they would still pretend that they would be talking about a fact rather than about a mode or modal condition.

The modal nature of a thing may be apparent from the use of can or (cap)able in its definition, it may also lie in the reference to its function. This is the action for which a thing is specially fitted, that is, can be used. One and the same word may even have different meanings dependent on whether the accent is on the thing's function or on its form. Form is a purely factual concept denoting a thing's shape and structure. A 'stoma', for instance, may be described as a 'small opening like a mouth in form or function'. The meaning of stoma thus follows either a descriptive, factual definition of mouth (when taking the form of a mouth) or a functional, that is, modal, definition of mouth (when taking the function of a mouth). Many definitions, particularly of artifacts, are of a mixed factual-modal nature tho. For example, in seat with four legs and a back, as one of the definitions of chair, the having of four legs and a back is a factual form of having-as-an-element. The modal part of the definition is implicit in the term seat when this is defined as a thing (an artifact) which is made so that one can sit (comfortably) on or in it. A seat remains a seat also when no-one actually sits in or on it, and even when no-one should sit in or on it.

A 'pen' is an instrument for writing or drawing with some fluid like ink. An instrument, in turn, has been defined as a 'means whereby something is achieved, performed or furthered' or 'is done or made to happen'. This is must be nonspheric, for if it were spheric, that is, factual, the definition would be erroneous. An instrument is not something whereby we necessarily do or make something in the factual sense (whether in the past, the present or the future); an instrument is something whereby we can do or make something, and this is a modal condition, not a factual one. When an instrument is defined as a 'tool used for delicate theoretical or practical work' (as in mathematical or medical instruments) used is nonspheric too, and must be read as (which) can be used. Just like a seat, a pen remains a pen even if no-one has used it, uses it or will use it, and even if no-one should use it.

A pen is not only an instrument itself, it is also a handy tool for the construction of new instruments; that is to say, of new theoretical instruments. It is in this way that having a pen can contribute to the extension of our knowledge of what is, of what can be and of what should be.

©MVVM, 41-57 ASWW

Model of Neutral-Inclusivity
Book of Instruments
About What Is, Can and Should Be
Three Times, Three Spheres