A convention is a group of like-minded people who meet to discuss a subject or issue. It may be a formal or informal gathering. They can take place in hotels, resorts, or other venues. Conventions have a long history in the United States, especially the political variety. Political parties and labor unions, fraternities, and sororities often send delegates to conventions. Some conventions are held by computer designers or software developers. Likewise, science fiction fans and comic-con enthusiasts gather to discuss a certain type of media or hobby.
According to the philosopher W. V. Quine, a convention is an event that “has a genuinely transformative nature. Typically, the resulting conventions are less formal than a treaty, but nevertheless bear an epistemic character.” For example, a group of teachers may meet to discuss the best way to teach the next generation of physics students.
Although the definition of a convention is important, the content of the event is far more significant. The most obvious content of a convention is a group of people with common interests. This could be an organization, a city, or a country. Various commentators argue for various solutions to the convention puzzle.
One of the more interesting things about a convention is that it has been around for a while. For instance, the 1947 Newfoundland National Convention is a classic case of a state-sponsored political convention. In addition, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees deliberative assemblies as a constitutional safeguard.
A convention can also be a good idea, but it is not always the best. For example, a monetary practice agent may not care about collective ends. Or, a primitive isolated society with a single language might believe that its language is the only possible one. But a convention can be the best of all worlds, as in the case of an international convention, in which multiple states sign a pact for the benefit of all.
A convention may even be normative. For example, in the realm of monetary practices, a claim about the monetary value of an item might be a fanciful exercise. However, the claim about the social benefits of owning a particular object can be regarded as a good idea.
In terms of the conventions themselves, Lewis argues that the most important element is the one that has the most aforementioned oomph. Specifically, the convention that’s best is the “deliberative assembly” – the kind guaranteed under the First Amendment.
The main reason for this is that the aforementioned assembly serves the broader social good. Indeed, a convention has been a major player in the United States’ development into representative democracy. As such, it is worth noting that the largest conventions in the world are typically convened every four years.
Despite the numerous solutions to the convention puzzle, a central philosophical task is left uncompleted. While many of the solutions fall into the “it’s all in the details” category, the most important question is whether it’s true that the convention is the best of all worlds.