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Convention, Reflection, and Agency

Faulconbridge, Peter Rupert; (2019) Convention, Reflection, and Agency. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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I develop a novel account of the ontology of conventions, rules, and norms, before applying this account in an investigation of their explanatory and practical roles. Conventions, rules, and norms belong to the metaphysical category I call ‘abstract individuals’. Conventions are multiply instantiable but are also individuated by reference to historical factors, namely precedents. These features are characteristic of abstract individuals in general, which therefore contrast with members of the categories of both pure universals and concrete particulars. In the first part of the thesis I elaborate on this metaphysical category, and show that conventions belong to it. I then defend the empirical adequacy of this view from certain arguments in the literature on cultural diffusion. The second part demonstrates how this view can encompass ‘implicit’ norms, and norms governing non-intentional behaviour. I also show how conventions, considered as abstract individuals, can have practical significance for us. This prepares the way for the final two chapters, which apply the ontology developed earlier to questions about the place of rules in practical reasoning. I argue that rules of various kinds are treated by deliberators, as well as those who would understand and evaluate their actions, as sources of ‘requirement’. Standard approaches to rulebased practical reasons fail to account for the phenomenon of requirement, in part due to an inadequate ontology of rules. My positive account develops on Michael Thompson’s discussion of ‘practical generality’. The metaphysical ‘generality’ of rules, understood as abstract individuals, is key to explaining the sense of requirement which attaches to them. However, I argue against certain assumptions in Thompson’s work, which limit his account to rarefied practices associated with justice, such as promising. Modifying these assumptions, I will show, allows us to employ my ontology of ordinary practices to understand the practical role of rules of all kinds.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Convention, Reflection, and Agency
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10082980
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