[hist-analytic] Normativity, Convention and "Equilibrium."

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Wed Oct 6 17:01:23 EDT 2010

There is a curious relation between the notions of normativity and convention. I've never seen an analysis of the former possessing the depth of David Lewis' treatment of convention. I hope to say something about this that will tie together some, otherwise, seemingly disparate ideas. There are on my view grades of normativity and striking cases where there is a convention that is not normative. So some norms are conventions but not all conventions are norms. We need to spell these out. 

There will be connections to ethics, here, particularly given my being disposed to reject the is/ought distinction. Like the distinction of analytic and synthetic serious questions can be raised. Hopefully, I will get to some of my own questions in this regard. Here is an example of a fact that bears on this subject: I am talking to you in a classroom where Hilary Putnam is scheduled to teach his freshman football players. (I've taught athletes and enjoyed doing so, by the way) A kid walks in and asks me for a syllabus; another student enters. I say (without pointing): "He thinks I'm Hillary Putnam." All three, perhaps all four of us, take 'he' to have the same reference. But the students basis and mine are quite different. We do agree. This is not a convention but, neither is it a syntactically induced relation of coreference (or "coindexation"). We have been "drawn" to this. There are similarities here in a way to Rawls' use of "reflective equilibrium." 

I think Rawls has gotten away with using this concept, but incorrectly. There are conventions, contracts, norms, and understandings about things like coreference (at some pragmatic level). There convention are sometimes related to norms. There are, as I hope to show, "levels of involvement" with respect to normativity. Reciprocity (compare here "reflective equilibrium") is at issue. By the way, much of this has come about after taking a second look at Quine on the proxy function and some issues related to reduction and translation, although there are elements relevant to discussion of causation (how do conventions receive a causal account). 

STeve Bayne 

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