Social Convention and Samuel Butler's Erewhon
There are many conceivable explanations that have the potential to
rationalize the preservation of society through time. These
explanations clarify the fact that society, since its inception, has
continued to exist. I assert that the precise reason for this
self-perpetuation is convention, and moreover, that convention
encompasses all of the other possible explanations for this
continuance. Yet this conclusion merely follows from proper
distinctions of terminology. Real profundity stems from the
examination of convention in relation to individuals who follow it. I
find that many individuals are not cognizant of the fact that society
rests upon conventions. Consequently, these individuals often exist
with twisted ideas of reality. Conclusions in this realm parallel
closely with arguments made by Samuel Butler in his novel, Erewhon.
"In spite of all the to-do they make about their idols, and the
temples they build, and the priests and priestesses whom they support,
I could never think that their professed religion was more than
skin-deep; but they had another which they carried with them into all
their actions; and although no one from the outside of things would
suspect it to have any existence at all, it was in reality their great
guide, the mariner's compass of their lives; so that there were very
few things which they ever either did, or refrained from doing,
without reference to its precepts."
-Samuel Butler, Erewhon
Convention enables members of society to communicate. Without
convention, communication between individuals would be impossible, and
society would cease to exist. Of course, the proof of this fact is
simply a result of definition: societies are aggregates of people
having common institutions, traditions, collective activities and
interests, and convention is simply a general agreement about basic
principles. Thus, convention is a requirement of society.
Members of a given society must agree upon basic principles to be able
to share them. In American society, the use of English as a common
language, the use of dollars as an exchange for goods and services and
the use of traffic lights as a means for order are all conventions.
Mostly everyone who drives agrees that when a traffic light is red, it
means stop. When people stop following this convention, car accidents
occur. On a much broader scale, if people stopped following the
conventions of English as a common language and dollars as an exchange
for goods and services, American society would fall apart.
When usually speaking about convention and society, individuals
usually converse about religion and hand shaking, not language. Yet
one must realize that language is just as much a convention as...