Convention (norm)

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A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms or criteria, often taking the form of a custom.

Certain types of rules or customs may become law and regulatory legislation may be introduced to formalize or enforce the convention (e.g., laws that define on which side of the road vehicles must be driven). In a social context, a convention may retain the character of an "unwritten" law of custom (e.g., the manner in which people greet each other, such as by shaking each other's hands).

In physical sciences, numerical values (such as constants, quantities, or scales of measurement) are called conventional if they do not represent a measured property of nature, but originate in a convention, for example an average of many measurements, agreed between the scientists working with these values.

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General

A convention is a or a selection from among two or more alternatives, where the rule or alternative is agreed upon among participants. Often the word refers to unwritten customs shared throughout a community. For instance, it is conventional in many societies that strangers being introduced shake hands. Some conventions are explicitly legislated; for example, it is conventional in the United States and in Germany that motorists drive on the right side of the road, whereas in England, Australia, Mauritius and Barbados they drive on the left. The extent to which justice is conventional (as opposed to natural or objective) is historically an important debate among philosophers.

The nature of conventions has raised long-lasting philosophical discussion. Quine, Davidson and David Lewis published influential writings on the subject. Lewis's account of convention received an extended critique in Margaret Gilbert's On Social Facts (1989), where an alternative account is offered. Another view of convention comes from Ruth Millikan's Language: A Biological Model (2005), once more against Lewis.

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