Semi-structured individual in-depth interviews were conducted to explore and compare which social norms with regard to the debt-incurring process are important to Poles with various experiences of indebtedness. Thematic analysis within a constructionist framework identified the social norms important in the borrowing process for Poles and revealed, as expected, a number of differences between people with various indebtedness experiences. Model borrowers have a significantly different approach to debt than unreliable debtors and non-borrowers. Model borrowers seem to be oblivious to the negative sides of loans as well as indicate fewer reasons for justifying not repaying obligations than others. For unreliable debtors, loans are a quick way to solve financial problems. They borrow money out of necessity rather than to finance any larger, long-term investments and have their own private rules for borrowing. Non-borrowers, although aware of borrowers’ higher standard of living, emphasize that debt is associated with permanent stress and psychological burden. Model borrowers, unlike the others, declare that in their immediate vicinity are only those who use and pay their loans in a timely manner.
The main goal of this article is to characterise and compare some aspects of Hilary Putnam’s referential theory of meaning and Robert B. Brandom’s inferential theory of meaning. I will do it to indicate some similarities and differences in these theories. It will provide an opportunity for a deeper understanding of these theories and for a more adequate evaluation of how they describe and explain the process of meaning acquisition of linguistic expressions. In his theory of meaning Putnam emphasises the importance of reference understood as a relationship which connects linguistic expressions and extra-linguistic (empirical) reality. Brandom acknowledges inference as a main category useful in characterising the meaning of expressions used in premises and a conclusion of inference. But his theory of meaning is criticised for minimalising the role of an empirical component (demonstratives etc.). He tries to defend his standpoint in the anaphoric theory of reference. Putnam like Brandom claimed that we – as cognitive subjects – are not in a situation in which we learn about the extra-linguistic reality in a direct way. It is the reality itself as well as our cognitive apparatus that play a role in a cognitive process.
The normative system of Bogusław Wolniewicz (1927–2017) can be subsumed under three categories: (1) pessimism (fatalism, or ‘tychism’ in Wolniewicz’s terms), (2) moral determinism (‘non-meliorism’), (3) conservatism (‘right-hand orientation’). Ad (1) Wolniewicz was pessimistic in two ways: he believed human life to be tragic (fatalism) and was also convinced that most people are guided by bad instincts (dualism). Ad (2) Wolniewicz believed that moral character was biologically determined and immutable. But his strong position on this subject ignores the classical view of Aristotle or the Stoics for whom moral character (or conscience) was acquired by habit and shaped deliberately. Ad (3) I suggest that a good historical example of conservative tendency was Critias of Athens. His famous fragment of the Sisyphus contains the idea of a supremacy of laws over human passions, and reduces religion to a supportive role with respect to ethics and politics. Wolniewicz’s dualism of right-hand and left-hand orientation encourages me to distinguish between a right-wing and a left-wing perception of value. For a leftist, value is intensity of a chosen feature (progressive value), whereas for a rightist, value is an area of freedom between inacceptable extremities (modular value). On these premises I propose a simple model of axiological conflict between left-wing and right-wing citizens.