Kent Bach quoted here the following passage from Williamson that I have long found quite perplexing:
That assertion has such [constitutive] rules is by no means obvious; perhaps assertion is more like a natural phenomenon than it seems. One way to find out is by supposing that it has such rules, in order to see where the hypothesis leads and what it explains. That will be done here. [pp. 238-9]
It’s, of course, from Knowledge and Its Limits. What puzzles me about it is the contrast between what has constitutive rules and natural phenomena. So the idea, I take it is that natural phenomena, like lightning and thunder, perhaps, have no associated norms, but other kinds of things might have constitutive norms. I’ve always wondered why Tim only cites these two options. Why can’t a phenomenon have associated norms, but no constitutive norms? Moreover, is this passage meant to endorse the view that anything normative is, for that very reason, non-natural? That doesn’t strike me as a compelling view, and as I recall, Williamson never explains this distinction or the point of the contrast. So, is the contrast just between the normative and the natural, and should we think that everything normative is subject to constitutive rules?