[hist-analytic] The arbitrariness of convention: revisited

steve bayne baynesrb at yahoo.com
Sat Jan 9 13:45:34 EST 2010

Yes, you are absolutely right. I was unclear on what you meant
exactly but your point is well taken.
It may be a non-arbitrary decision whether to have traffic
rules, or conventions, but it is arbitrary as to _which_ 
conventions to adopt. This is the fundamental difference
between convention for Lewis and contract. In social contract
there are no alternatives; that is, there is only the state of
nature or the social contract, unlike the case of traffic laws.
Take a look at Lewis _Convention_ p. 96 for the point your

--- On Sat, 1/9/10, jlsperanza at aol.com <jlsperanza at aol.com> wrote:

From: jlsperanza at aol.com <jlsperanza at aol.com>
Subject: The arbitrariness of convention: revisited
To: hist-analytic at simplelists.co.uk
Date: Saturday, January 9, 2010, 12:55 PM

steve bayne baynesrb at yahoo.com
Sat Jan 2 17:24:51 EST 2010

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"Well, his 'convention' seems to be arbitrary"

I don't see this. How so?




Well, I was referring to the condition, in Lewis´s analysis in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions for ¨x is a convention iff" that x should be "arbitrary". My knowledge of Lewis is mainly second-hand, but I seem to recall this issue discussed somehow at length by Gricean authors.

Grice would possibly criticise the word "arbitrary" here. In Latin it just means, "under one´s control". I suppose Lewis meant something different. It is the nature of a convention that there is nothing "natural" as it were about it; for the point being, if there were, why bother to call it a ´convention´, rather than a mere rational development from a natural-based procedure?

Incidentally, my mentor in this matters was my PhD advisor, E. A. Rabossi, who defined hisself as a naturalist about rights, and right he was too!


J. L. Speranza
  for the Grice Circle.
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