Failure, the very idea, presupposes a norm by the lights of which it gets counted as such. And so failure, I argue, is essential to understanding the nature of norms. But I begin with a qualifying restriction. There is frequent talk of failure that presupposes something less (or other) than a norm, as when we speak of “heart failure” or “engine failure.” What is presupposed in these latter expressions cannot—strictly—be a norm because these are breakdowns or cessations of a mechanism, whether natural or artificial. In this brief essay, I look only at failure strictly so called, where the lights by which it is seen to be a failure are a “norm” in the full and irreducible sense of the term—not a norm that reduces, in the end, to a descriptive tendency of nature or artifice while presenting itself on the surface as a prescriptive and evaluative standard.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 549-571
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.