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Social Conventions:
From Language to Law
Andrei Marmor

Paperback | 2014 | $19.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691162232
200 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Hardcover | 2009 | $57.50 | £48.95 | ISBN: 9780691140902
224 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400831654 |
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Social conventions are those arbitrary rules and norms governing the countless behaviors all of us engage in every day without necessarily thinking about them, from shaking hands when greeting someone to driving on the right side of the road. In this book, Andrei Marmor offers a pathbreaking and comprehensive philosophical analysis of conventions and the roles they play in social life and practical reason, and in doing so challenges the dominant view of social conventions first laid out by David Lewis.

Marmor begins by giving a general account of the nature of conventions, explaining the differences between coordinative and constitutive conventions and between deep and surface conventions. He then applies this analysis to explain how conventions work in language, morality, and law. Marmor clearly demonstrates that many important semantic and pragmatic aspects of language assumed by many theorists to be conventional are in fact not, and that the role of conventions in the moral domain is surprisingly complex, playing mostly an auxiliary and supportive role. Importantly, he casts new light on the conventional foundations of law, arguing that the distinction between deep and surface conventions can be used to answer the prevalent objections to legal conventionalism.

Social Conventions is a much-needed reappraisal of the nature of the rules that regulate virtually every aspect of human conduct.


"This is certainly an important addition to this rather narrow body of academic scholarship."--Choice

"Social Conventions is an important contribution to scholars from at least two disciplines--philosophy and law. . . . [T]his book should interest anyone wanting to gain a better and deeper understanding of human linguistic and moral behavior."--Dana Riesenfeld, Pragmatics Cognition

"This timely monograph should stimulate further philosophical studies of conventions in general and of their various manifestations in human affairs."--Kevin Toh, Ethics


"This book will be of great philosophical interest, especially to social and legal philosophers. Marmor's view is original and represents an important alternative to the dominant (Lewisian) conception of social conventions. He sketches his theory on a large canvas and applies it to several different areas of social life. He writes with admirable clarity, directness, and simplicity."--Gerald Postema, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

"This book develops and applies a general theory of social conventions, then employs it to answer questions about the role of convention in language, morality, and law. Marmor's conclusions are noteworthy not only for the light they shed on the conventions found in these areas, but also for the claim that some linguistic and moral phenomena deemed conventional by other writers do not, in fact, have this status."--Christopher McMahon, University of California, Santa Barbar

Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments vii
Preface ix
Chapter One: A First Look at the Nature of Conventions 1
Chapter Two: Constitutive Conventions 31
Chapter Three: Deep Conventions 58
Chapter Four: Conventions of Language: Semantics 79
Chapter Five: Conventions of Language: Pragmatics 106
Chapter Six: The Morality of Conventions 131
Chapter Seven: The Conventional Foundations of Law 155
Bibliography 177
Index 183

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