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Marmor, Andrei

Social Conventions

From Language to Law

Series:Princeton Monographs in Philosophy


    94,95 € / $108.75 / £84.00*

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    Publication Date:
    July 2009
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    Aims and Scope

    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.


    200 pages
    Professional and scholarly;College/higher education;

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    Andrei Marmor is the Maurice Jones Jr. Professor of Law and a professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California. His books include Law in the Age of Pluralism and Interpretation and Legal Theory.


    "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

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

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

    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

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