Social Conventions

Social Conventions: From Language to Law

Andrei Marmor
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 200
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Social Conventions
    Book Description:

    Social conventions are those arbitrary rules and norms governing the countless behaviors all of us engage in every day without necessarily thinking about them, from shaking hands when greeting someone to driving on the right side of the road. In this book, Andrei Marmor offers a pathbreaking and comprehensive philosophical analysis of conventions and the roles they play in social life and practical reason, and in doing so challenges the dominant view of social conventions first laid out by David Lewis.

    Marmor begins by giving a general account of the nature of conventions, explaining the differences between coordinative and constitutive conventions and between deep and surface conventions. He then applies this analysis to explain how conventions work in language, morality, and law. Marmor clearly demonstrates that many important semantic and pragmatic aspects of language assumed by many theorists to be conventional are in fact not, and that the role of conventions in the moral domain is surprisingly complex, playing mostly an auxiliary and supportive role. Importantly, he casts new light on the conventional foundations of law, arguing that the distinction between deep and surface conventions can be used to answer the prevalent objections to legal conventionalism.

    Social Conventionsis a much-needed reappraisal of the nature of the rules that regulate virtually every aspect of human conduct.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3165-4
    Subjects: Philosophy, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. Chapter One A First Look at the Nature of Conventions
    (pp. 1-30)

    I want to begin with an attempt to define what social conventions are. I will start with some intuitive ideas on what seems special about conventional norms, and try to define those features as precisely as possible. If this tack leads us to a single explanation of the point, or function, of conventions in our lives, so be it. But we should not assume in advance that a single explanation is available, and we should certainly not predetermine what it is.

    First, conventional rules are, in a specific sense,arbitrary. Roughly, if a rule is a convention, we should be...

  6. Chapter Two Constitutive Conventions
    (pp. 31-57)

    In the previous chapter we have seen that Lewis’s analysis of social conventions in terms of solutions to large-scale recurrent coordination problems successfully explains some cases, but not others. There is a whole range of social conventions that cannot be explained in terms of a solution to coordination problems. In this chapter I want to develop the idea that there is a second type of social conventions, whose main function is to constitute social practices. I call themconstitutive conventions. I will try to explain what constitutive conventions are and how they differ from coordination conventions.

    There are countless social...

  7. Chapter Three Deep Conventions
    (pp. 58-78)

    In many cases it is quite clear that a normative practice is conventional. Nobody doubts that greetings are conventions; or that the notational rules of language that determine the sound-sense relations are conventional. In other cases, however, the conventionality of the relevant domain is genuinely controversial. To mention a few of examples that will be discussed later, the conventionality of performative speech acts is controversial; or, in the moral domain, the conventionality of norms of promising is controversial; as we shall seen in chapter 7, the conventional foundations of law are highly controversial. And there are many other such examples....

  8. Chapter Four Conventions of Language: Semantics
    (pp. 79-105)

    What aspects of language, and language use, are conventional? This is the question that will be addressed in this and the next chapters. The answer does not purport to be comprehensive. First, I will have nothing to say here about syntax.¹ Second, even within the domains of semantics and pragmatics, which will form the subject of these chapters, my focus will be limited to some key issues. Most of this chapter concentrates on the question of whether the literal meaning of words and linguistic expressions is conventional, and if so, in what sense. In the next chapter we will look...

  9. Chapter Five Conventions of Language: Pragmatics
    (pp. 106-130)

    There are two separate issues that form the subject of this chapter. Both of them concern familiar questions about the pragmatic aspects of linguistic communication. In the first part I consider the question of whether there are conventional implicatures. The second part focuses on the role of conventions in performative speech acts.

    The main question addressed here is this: What is the role conventions play in securing linguistic communication when the content of an utterance goes beyond what has been explicitly said? Grice’s remarkably influential theory of implicatures still provides the main framework of analysis of such cases, and the...

  10. Chapter Six The Morality of Conventions
    (pp. 131-154)

    Moral norms are not, generally, arbitrary and compliance dependent in the sense we have discussed in previous chapters. The reasons to comply with basic moral rules or principles do not normally depend on the fact that it is the norm that happens to be followed in the relevant population. Morality presents itself as a serious constraint on practical deliberation just by itself, so to speak; it makes certain demands on us that are based on reasons. Moral rules or principles are generalized formulations of such reasons. There is, I will assume here, nothing conventional about the idea (or rule, or...

  11. Chapter Seven The Conventional Foundations of Law
    (pp. 155-176)

    One of H.L.A. Hart’s most lasting and influential contributions to legal philosophy consists in the thesis that in every developed legal system there are certainrules of recognitionthat determine what counts as law in that society. Such rules determine, to use a more recent term, thesources of law; they determine how law is created, modified, or abolished in the relevant legal order. In the existence of these rules of recognition Hart saw, as he put it, “the germ of the idea of legal validity.”¹ The idea that there must be some norms that determine what counts as law...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 177-182)
  13. Index
    (pp. 183-186)