In Sharon Street's paper, "Nothing "Really" Matters, but That's Not What Matters", she uses the phrase substantive normative-claim:

I take it that this is because Parfit is thinking of the claim in question—about our reason to take the medicine—as a substantive normative claim, and so more “metaethical” kinds of worries do not spring to mind as potentially relevant here....

I don't know what she uses substantive to express.

I had hoped that the dictionary definitions of the adjective would help me. However, the dictionaries include more than one meta-ethically relevant definition of substantive.


  1. having a firm basis in reality and therefore important, meaningful, or considerable. "there is no substantive evidence for the efficacy of these drugs"
  2. having a separate independent existence
  3. defining rights and duties as opposed to giving the rules by which such things are established.

What does substantive in the phrase 'substantive normative claim' mean?


1 Answer 1


I found a paragraph in Parfit's On What Matters that gives a definition of "substantive normative claim":

There is another way in which some people have come to accept subjective theories about reasons. We can call some normative claim substantive when this claim both

(a) states that something has some normative property, and

(b) is significant, by being a claim with which we might disagree, or which might be informative, by telling us something that we didn’t already know. (p. 70)

  • 1
    Substantive includes being non-tautological but is not fully defined by that.
    – virmaior
    Mar 9, 2015 at 23:22
  • 5
    A concise answer, and to the point. You can and should accept your own answer!
    – DBK
    Mar 10, 2015 at 23:13

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