I wander in from a different culture, into an auction house:

  • There, the significance of waving your hand is bidding the next amount on whatever is being auctioned.
    • But all I know of the local customs is that waving usually is a greeting for people.
  • So, I go in there and greet my friend by waving.
    • I’m unaware that, in this context, doing that has the significance of bidding $500 for that armoire.
  • Now, if, as a matter of fact, I’m held responsible there (“You’ve implicitly accepted these rules by going into the auction house!”), then I’ve actually bid. That’s what I’ve done.
    • Even though I didn’t intend to do that, I didn’t mean to do that. But I produced a performance that has that significance.

A parallel story

  • In Napoleon era, England, they needed sailors
    • This was a terrible life; nobody would want to do this.
    • Yet the law was that one had to voluntarily join Her Majesty’s Navy.
  • Because people were illiterate, taking the Queen’s shilling from a duly authorized representative of Her Majesty’s Government showed that you had voluntarily joined the service
    • If you did that, you had joined the Navy. You had committed yourself.
  • So, they’d go to the bars and wait until somebody was drunk and out of money to say, “Like a shilling for another drink, mate?”
    • They weren’t wearing the uniform or anything that shows that they were the duly authorized representatives
    • But they had the papers to show they were. You couldn’t deny there were all these witnesses that you took the shilling from this person.
  • This is an equivalent of having bid on the armoire: the law was, if you performed that act, regardless of intention, that counted as committing yourself.