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...
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...urse, the society in 1984 is fictional and seems less
of a possible reality now that the major societies which the novel was
based upon are no longer in existence. Yet the possibility still
Essentially, the role of convention in society is to provide the
existence of society through communication. Convention also enables
societies to control the advent of innovations that attempt to modify
society. Furthermore, individual incognizance of a society's
conventional dependence can foster a skewed sense of reality. On a
final note, one must remember that rigidity of convention can be
detrimental to a given society, or even worse, just detrimental to
individual freedom and creativity while ensuring the ultimate
self-perpetuation of society.
Butler, Samuel. Erewhon. New York: Penguin, 1970.