Common knowledge, salience and convention: A reconstruction of David Lewis' game theory

Economics and Philosophy 19 (2):175-210 (2003)
David Lewis is widely credited with the first formulation of common knowledge and the first rigorous analysis of convention. However, common knowledge and convention entered mainstream game theory only when they were formulated, later and independently, by other theorists. As a result, some of the most distinctive and valuable features of Lewis' game theory have been overlooked. We re-examine this theory by reconstructing key parts in a more formal way, extending it, and showing how it differs from more recent game theory. In contrast to current theories of common knowledge, Lewis' theory is based on an explicit analysis of the modes of reasoning that are accessible to rational individuals and so can be used to analyse the genesis of common knowledge. Lewis' analysis of convention emphasises the role of inductive reasoning and of salience in the maintenance of conventions over time. Footnotes Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 13th Amsterdam Colloquium at the University of Amsterdam, at a workshop on social norms at Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and at seminars at Tilburg University and the University of Bristol. We are grateful for comments from participants at those meetings, from two anonymous referees, and from Michael Bacharach, Nick Bardsley, Cristina Bicchieri, Luc Bovens, Simon Grant, David McCarthy, Shepley Orr, Brian Skyrms, Peter Vanderschraaf, Peter Wakker and Jörgen Weibull. Robert Sugden's work was supported by the Leverhulme Trust.
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DOI 10.1017/S0266267103001123
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