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David Lewis on Convention

David Lewis on Convention

Author Name: 
Publication Type: 
Books and Books Chapters
Journal/Volume: 
In Barry Loewer and Jonathan Schaffer, eds., A Companion to David Lewis
Publication Date: 
May, 2015
Abstract: 
David Lewis’s landmark Convention starts its exploration of the notion of a
convention with a brilliant insight: we need a distinctive social competence to
solve coordination problems. Convention, for Lewis, is the canonical form that
this social competence takes when it is grounded in agents’ knowledge and
experience of one another’s self-consciously flexible behavior. Lewis meant for
his theory to describe a wide range of cultural devices we use to act together
effectively; but he was particularly concerned in applying this notion to make
sense of our knowledge of meaning. In this chapter, we give an overview of
Lewis’s theory of convention, and explore its implications for linguistic theory, and
especially for problems at the interface of the semantics and pragmatics of
natural language.