cite as The Monist, Volume 88, 2005


In this contribution to a symposium on “Conformism,” I comment on two of the many mechanisms producing conformity: coordination and esteem. First, I set forth one point about conformity coordination settings – that there can be a strong stability to conventions in which the required behavior varies by the observable physical differences among human beings, such as sex and those that come to be associated with race. In a certain class of important games, observable personal differences work to “break symmetry,” which significantly changes the possible outcomes to the game. Second, I explain the claim that human beings desire the esteem of others and then discuss how this simple preference can produce significant conformity. As with coordination, one implication is that esteem-seeking among strangers is likely to make behaviorally relevant the distinctions among individuals that even a stranger will know, i.e., observable physical traits, including sex and race. In both cases – coordination and esteem – I emphasize some inegalitarian (and illiberal) types of conformity.

Date of this Version

March 2005