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26 October: Nathan Adams

“Social Accommodation”

Abstract: David Lewis argued that scorekeeping in a language game is importantly different from scorekeeping in games like baseball because language follows a rule of accommodation. Accommodation is the phenomenon where a speaker’s utterance apparently violates some norm but the audience changes the conversational context such that the speaker is no longer in violation of the norm, allowing the conversation to proceed. This has most commonly been investigated with respect to presuppositions and the norm not to rely on unshared information. Rae Langton and others have extended Lewis’ idea to cover the accommodation of illocutionary acts and the norms governing felicitous illocution. I argue that we should continue this extension to the case of what I call social accommodation. Audiences will change the context, negotiating the speaker’s utterance, in order to render the speaker in conformity with social norms beyond those governing speech acts per se, including moral, religious, prudential, and many other types of norms. Social accommodation is one way that norms are implicitly imposed and sustained. This is especially important to see in the case of injustice, where pernicious norms can resist challenge in surprising ways.