ArgLab • Colloquium

Pedro Abreu

Rationalization and Convention

Despite the (arguably) essential role of linguistic conventions in facilitating linguistic understanding, interpreters must still engage their general intelligence and mind reading skills in every ordinary instance of successful communication. I defend this claim against Lepore and Stone’s position in their recent book, Imagination and Convention (2015). There they argue for a division between conventional and imaginative uses of language and they picture it as sharper than it can really be. I hold that there is an irreducible element of unpredictability in linguistic understanding ensuring that we’re never too far from a radical setting where, unaided by convention, interpreters must exercise a broader ability to improvise a sense for other people’s actions, utterances included. This can only work against a background of common beliefs, interests, reasonings, values – in sum, a shared rationality.


Pedro Abreu, ArgLab, Institute of Philosophy (IFILNOVA), Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal