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EGENIS seminar series: 'The coordinative function of cultural conventions', Prof Marc Slors (Radboud University)

Egenis seminar series

An Egenis, the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences seminar
Date21 October 2019
Time15:30 to 17:00
PlaceByrne House

In this talk I want to argue that there is an intimate connection between trivial cultural conventions—such as social etiquette, styles of clothing and architecture and the styling of public space—and the (massive) division of roles and tasks that are characteristic of human societies.

David Lewis famously claimed that conventions are solutions to coordination games, but it has been argued convincingly that cultural conventions do not solve Lewis-style coordination problems. I will distinguish between different types of coordination and argue that there is one specific type—which I shall label ‘role-interaction coordination’—that is subtly different from Lewis-style coordination and pervasive in massive division of labour. I will also argue that cultural conventions considerably facilitate this type of coordination by allowing us to offload cognition aimed at such coordination onto the cultural niche. Such offloading may well be a conditio sine qua non for massive division of labour. I will end by discussing a possible objection to this proposal. It might be argued that our ordinary ‘mindreading’ abilities are sufficient for role-interaction coordination. I argue that recent ideas about mindshaping (Zawidski) and folk-psychology as a normative practice (McGeer) allow us to see ‘mindreading’ as an integral part of culture’s conventions rather than as an alternative cognitive means of securing role-interaction coordination.


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