What if praise and blame were the normative?

Praise and blame (PB) give us the best first look at what we means by “the normative”. So what would the normative be if it just were these things? 

PB seem to involve social relations and public behavior, or at least manifested behavior. Blame, in this context, is the cutting someone off from the social network, and praise is a recognition of their firm unity with it. The fittingness of isolation and separation as modes of punishment,* and collective mobbing in celebration as a natural mode of exuberant praise seem to point to this. On this account, the normative would be a metric of unity or division among a ordered group of gregarious individuals, and, since the unity and division are the life and death of a group, the normative is a baseline measure of the life or death of a group. 

True, an individual can PB himself, but praising oneself is not like taking one’s own temperature, that is, something that can be just as well by the oneself as by someone else. There is something hollow and pathetic is having to praise oneself, and something safe and cowardly about blaming oneself. There is also the fact that these internal actions frequently demand manifestation, hence the pressing physical need that many criminals have to confess or get something off one’s chest, or the deep dissatisfaction of having ones praiseworthy traits not recognized. 

On this account, the normative also has a cognitive aspect, since it essentially involves the judgments of others about us, according to what is a paradigm case of group cohesion or an act leading to its disintegration. 

The objection to all of this is so obvious that it’s hard to keep it till now: the normative is not what preserves communities, but which preserves a community worth preserving, that is, the community itself is measured by a normative standard and therefore cannot be identified with it. 

The objection leaves us with two options**: either the normative as such is an abstract and ideal rule that need not exist within an actual community or, what makes for a more interesting claim – the normative is a recognition of our citizenship in an ideal society, i.e. one in which PB is not contingent on something else. Here Thomists might think of ST I-II 2.3, where STA argues that the value of human action cannot consist in the PB we receive from human persons but it must consist in the PB we receive from divine persons, and this latter gives whatever derivative power or value we might experience in the former.  

*We find a limit case of this in the doctrine of Hell, a place where isolation is so absolute that, if someone is there, even one’s own perfectly loving mother would not miss him. 

**These need not be entirely opposed. An ideal community can be seen as the concretion of the ideal. This would give us a variant of the Euthyphro problem, and perhaps point out a unique solution to it. 

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