We have started treating relevancy in itself as a factual notion, that is, a notion describing the presence or absence of a factual relation -- or at least a nonnormative relation. (To be precise: relevancy refers to a relation which can be looked upon from a factual, modal or normative perspective.) Like truth, relevancy in itself is not normative, and the term relevant in itself has, or can be given, a purely conceptual, nonevaluative meaning. It is simply a fact that something is true or not (in general, or when uttered at a particular time and place), and it is simply a fact that something is relevant or not (with respect to a certain goal or other directional entity). Or, if relevancy has a built-in modality, it is simply a modal or factual-modal condition that something is relevant or not with respect to a certain focus of relevancy. This factual-modal status of relevancy should not be confused with its objective status. Even if one believed relevancy to be a normative concept (or value), one could still disagree on its being subjective or objective, that is, independent of what people believe to be the case about it.

Whereas truth itself may be treated as a factual notion, it is normative (to say) that it is wrong to tell a falsehood or to purposely tell a falsehood. Similarly, whereas relevancy may be treated as a factual or factual-modal notion, it is normative (to say) that it is wrong to make an irrelevant distinction in respect of an accepted goal, or to purposely or knowingly do so. But while relevancy itself may be something purely factual or descriptive, it could be argued that moral relevancy is of a normative or evaluative nature because of the kind of goal or focus involved. It would, then, not be the nature of the relevance relation itself, but the moral goal which makes it evaluative. Since so many aspects are involved as soon as the general notion of relevancy is restricted to a moral or other goal, it is more important to agree on the underlying structure and the choice of criterions and goals made, or to be made, than on a certain form of relevancy being factual, modal, normative or evaluative. Like the classical conceptions and controversies about form versus content, the antithesis between the factual-modal or descriptive and the normative or evaluative may not be of much use anymore with respect to the intricacies of relevancy.

In a sense discriminational relevancy is as factual a concept as relevancy in general because discriminational does not in any way typify the focus of relevancy (more than relevancy itself does, and only with respect to minimum requirements). However, it is a relevancy principle which makes all relevancy normative, and whether this principle is a weak one with strong criterions of relevance (or irrelevance, for that matter), or a strong one with weak criterions, effectively amounts to the same. So far as the relevance merely depends on the criterions, it could still be considered a purely descriptive affair, but it turns out that the extent of the factual-modal part of one and the same normative system of relevance may be taken larger or smaller, so long as the principle is changed with it (as we will see in the next division). This implies that relevancy, and certainly the relevancy of discrimination with its specific criterions (probably not unlike moral relevancy), may not be that purely factual (or modal) a concept after all. The normative content will, then, have been infused into one or more of the criterions of relevancy, or otherwise in our willingness to accept those criterions. We will return to this issue later, but it should again show the danger (if not futility) of trying to answer fundamental questions in isolation.

©MVVM, 41-58 ASWW

Model of Neutral-Inclusivity
Book of Instruments
Conceptual Status of 'Relevancy'