Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2008)

Authors
Michael Rescorla
University of California, Los Angeles
Abstract
The central philosophical task posed by conventions is to analyze what they are and how they differ from mere regularities of action and cognition. Subsidiary questions include: How do conventions arise? How are they sustained? How do we select between alternative conventions? Why should one conform to convention? What social good, if any, do conventions serve? How does convention relate to such notions as rule, norm, custom, practice, institution, and social contract? Apart from its intrinsic interest, convention is important because philosophers frequently invoke it when discussing other topics. A favorite philosophical gambit is to argue that, perhaps despite appearances to the contrary, some phenomenon ultimately results from convention. Notable candidates include: property, government, justice, law, morality, linguistic meaning, necessity, ontology, mathematics, and logic
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