Marmor's Social Conventions: The Limits of Practical Reason
Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Published via Onlline First
Posted: 23 Jan 2010 Last revised: 29 Mar 2018
Date Written: January 22, 2010
This essay argues that the practical reason approach to the study of social conventions (and social normativity more generally) fails to adequately account for the fluency of social action in environments that we experience as familiar. The practical reason approach, articulated most recently in Andrei Marmor’s Social Conventions: From Language to Law (2009) does help us, though not wholly adequately, to understand how we tend to react to, and experience, unfamiliar situations or unfamiliar behaviours, i.e., those situations in which a certain practice becomes problematic or is problematised, or where we are obliged to, or moved to, justify or deliberate. The reason why the practical reason approach is not wholly adequate when it comes to understanding unfamiliar situations or unfamiliar behaviours is that it tends to subsume the unfamiliar under the familiar, i.e., it tends to negatively evaluate anything that is deemed to be not in accordance with the rules and reasons already familiar to the observer. This excludes the possibility of the observer having to transform himself or herself, and thus change what is familiar to him or her.
Keywords: conventions, norms, normativity, reasons, rules, rule-following, values
JEL Classification: K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation