Convention: A Philosophical Study / Edition 1

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Convention was immediately recognized as a major contribution to the subject and its significance has remained undiminished since its first publication in 1969. Lewis analyzes social conventions as regularities in the resolution of recurring coordination problems-situations characterized by interdependent decision processes in which common interests are at stake. Conventions are contrasted with other kinds of regularity, and conventions governing systems of communication are given special attention.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book is my attempt at an analysis of our common, establishedconcept of convention, so that you will recognize that it explainswhat you must have in mind when you say that language is governedby conventions. Language is only one among many activities governedby conventions that we did not create by agreeing and that wecannot describe." David Lewis

"Readers will be indebted to the author of this book."Philosophical Quarterly

"The notion of convention has served philosophers sinceAristotle as a convenient exploration of the arbitrary character ofreferential word meaning. In 1936 Willard Quine, pursuing thenotion of analyticity, called attention to the emptiness of thisexplanation. David Lewis has attempted to re-establish the notionof convention as a partial explanation of analytic truth [and his]explication of "convention" is a tour de force of Humeananalysis." Philosophy and Rhetoric

"This book has been published for quite some time. Itssignificant contribution is no longer in question [and it will]remain a central reference for discussions on the nature ofconventions. An excellent book for teaching purposes."Australasian Journal of Philosophy

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780631232575
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 5/27/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 228
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

David Lewis (1941–2001) was Professor of Philosophyat Princeton University. His publications includeCounterfactuals (reissued by Blackwell 2000), On thePlurality of Worlds (reissued by Blackwell, 2000), Parts ofClasses (1991), and numerous articles in metaphysics and otherareas. Many of his writings are available in his CollectedPapers.

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Table of Contents


Foreword by W.V. Quine.


I. Coordination and Convention.

Sample Coordination Problems.

Analysis of Coordination Problems.

Solving Coordination Problems.


Sample Conventions.

II. Convention Refined.

Common Knowledge.

Knowledge of Conventions.

Alternatives to Convention.

Degrees of Convention.

Consequences of Conventions.

III. Convention Contrasted.


Social Contracts.



Conformative Behavior.


Meaning of Signals.

IV. Convention and Communication.

Sample Signals.

Analysis of Signaling.

Verbal Signaling.

Conventional Meaning of Signals.

V. Conventions of Language.

Possible Languages.


Semantics in a Possible Language.

Conventions of Truthfulness.

Semantics in a Population.



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