Common knowledge, salience and convention: A reconstruction of David Lewis' game theory

Robin P. Cubitt, Robert Sugden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)


David Lewis is widely credited with the first formulation of common knowledge and the first rigorous analysis of convention. However, common knowledge and convention entered mainstream game theory only when they were formulated, later and independently, by other theorists. As a result, some of the most distinctive and valuable features of Lewis' game theory have been overlooked. We re-examine this theory by reconstructing key parts in a more formal way, extending it, and showing how it differs from more recent game theory. In contrast to current theories of common knowledge, Lewis' theory is based on an explicit analysis of the modes of reasoning that are accessible to rational individuals and so can be used to analyse the genesis of common knowledge. Lewis' analysis of convention emphasises the role of inductive reasoning and of salience in the maintenance of conventions over time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-210
Number of pages36
JournalEconomics and Philosophy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2003

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