H. P. Grice’s essay “Meaning” was published in “The Philosophical Review” quite a few years (typically!) after its initial presentation to a meeting of The Oxford Philosophical Society.
Grice’s “Meaning” contains an account of what Grice calls, mischievously, “non-natural meaning” — roughly, what utterer U means by, or in, performing a certain action.
Infamously, according to Grice’s account, the “non-natural” meaning of U’s utterance u — and what *U* meant by, or in, producing the utterance u — is *determined* by a distinctive range of addressee A-directed intentions with which U produces u.
Grice supports his account by appeal to fruitful, counterexample-based arguments against competitor accounts.
Grice’s account, and the accompanying defense, soon generated a great deal of critical discussion, within and without Oxford (Urmson, Strawson, etc.) and now figures in the assumed background to most conceptual and analytic engagements with its topic.
Important philosophical work, however, rarely forms in a vacuum — even if a Griceian one and his Oxonian rare atmosphere!
In a footnote, Grice cites only one reference in “Meaning”: C. L. Stevenson’s influential “Ethics and Language” (then fresh from Yale).
The Stevenson citation connects Grice’s “Meaning” with a rich body of prior work.
Furthermore, Grice’s account furnishes a distinction, within the totality of the intentions with which U acts, between
— those intentions that constitute acts in which something is meant, or expressed, and
— those intentions that constitute acts that only serve, or are served by, acts in which something is meant.
In a way, Grice aims to develop J. L. Austin’s triadic distinction between the U’s *illocutionary* act and the two other acts that serve, or are served by, this illocutionary act — specifically, the *locutionary* act on which the performance of the illocutionary act depends, and the *perlocutionary* act that depend on the performance of the illocutionary act.
(But when pressed with confusing Austin’s illocution with the perlocution, he irreverently resoonded: “Mistaken mabbe; hardly confused!”)
Austin claims to have formed the views underlying his lectures in pre-war Oxford.
Grice, who says “was born on the wrong side of the tracks,” did not socialise with Austin then.
Related views figured in the background to Austin’s other oeuvre.
In what follows, I shall discuss a further purported connection between Grice’s “Meaning” and earlier work.
It has been suggested that the credit for originating the account offered by Grice’s “Meaning” is due, not to Grice, but to Anton Marty, in Switzerland!
For Marty, it is argued, presents an account of meaning that is similar to, if not identical with, Grice’s.
My aim here is to pursue *two* questions that arise from this priority dispute:
1) To what extent is Grice himself, as opposed to Marty, *responsible* for the account presented in Grice’s “Meaning”?
2) What is to be learned from pursuit of this particular dispute over priority?
My answer to (1) is that Grice *is* largely responsible for the account, although it is reasonable to think that Marty’s account figures as a sort of precursor.
My answer to (2) is that what there is to be learned from pursuit of the priority question has at least as much to do with *differences* between Marty’s and Grice’s account as it has to do with their similarities.
More substantively, I’ll discuss a particular difference in *emphasis* between Grice’s account and Marty’s, and the way in which this difference highlights the problematic status of one central component of Grice’s discussion.
I’ll first offer some general reflections on what we might hope to achieve by pursuing historical questions of priority, and some ways in which pursuing answers to such historical questions can interact with the pursuit of questions of a systematic nature.
I consider the question whether the production of Grice’s “Meaning” may have been influenced by Marty’s work.
I explore some similarities and differences between Marty’s work and Grice’s that are visible at different levels of resolution, and suggest that the central insights present in Grice’s “Meaning” are *absent* from Marty’s work.
I consider an apparent problem that Grice presents in “Meaning, revisited” for the natural idea that intentional behaviour may manifest or express bits of psychology *other* than the intention with which the behaviour was produced.
Marty and Grice offer quite different responses to this apparent problem.
Grice treats it as a genuine problem.
Marty treats it as merely apparent.
I suggest that one thing that we can learn from Marty — and from historical reflection more generally — is that claims which might otherwise have struck us as uncontestable might be contestable, since contested.
We may have as much to learn from differences amongst thinkers in our subject’s history as we do from their commonalities.
Before embarking on a detailed comparison of Grice’s account with Marty’s, it is worth pausing to reflect generally on what we might hope to gain from an historical investigation.
At the most general level — and without wishing to suggest that these categories are either exclusive or exhaustive — the philosopher’s interests may be systematic or historical.
Pursuing a *systematic* interest, we might hope that our inquiry serves a theoretical end, e.g. by helping us to develop or assess any account of meaning.
Here, it might be that historical reflection reveals ways in which some aspects of some theories are originally due to pressures of authority, or more generally that they are contingent accretions or accidents of development, rather than secure bases for further theorising.
In that case, the result of historical reflection might be the weakening, or problematising, of assumptions that had figured as more or less fixed points in theorising.
Alternatively, it might be that historical investigation reveals a fund of arguments, or nuances, on which work builds without replicating, so that uncovering those arguments and subtleties figures in strengthening a position.
Pursuing this historic interest, we might hope that our inquiry will serve a particular end, by deepening our understanding of the crisscrossing paths along which accounts develop.
Insofar as we adopt the historical standpoint, we are liable to do so because we are concerned with the path along which what we take to be insights develop.
Thus, we are liable to be interested in the historical development of what we take to be a success.
Here it is worthwhile to distinguish *two* ways in which earlier work, such as Marty’s, might be related to later work, such as Grice’s.
The *first* way is for the earlier work to be a precedent for later work: minimally, for it to involve an earlier appearance, in whole or part, of a later insight.
Here, what matters are commonalities or similarities between the earlier and later view, whatever the historical connections between those views.
The *second* way is for the earlier work to be a precursor for the later work: minimally, for the earlier work to figure *causally* in the generation of the later work, either as a prompt to, or stage in, the development of the insights contained in the later work.
In principle, one might find perfect similarities between earlier and later views without the former serving as precursor for the latter: that is, one might find mere *precedence* — as when we say Aristotle is “Greek Grice”!
Similarly, one might in principle find a precursor for a later view with little similarity to that later view, e.g. if the earlier view serves merely as a prompt, or argumentative foil, in the development of the later view.
The assessment of claims about precedence, and so of claims about commonality or similarity, is liable to be sensitive to the values of *two* interrelated parameters.
1) It is liable to be sensitive to the level of resolution at which commonality, or similarity, is sought.
2) It is liable to be sensitive to what we take to be the central insights of the later work.
Thus, views that appear very similar at a low level of resolution may be strikingly dissimilar at higher levels of resolution, and the key insights of a later view may be discernible only at those higher levels of resolution.
We might, e.g., take the insights of some later view to be found not so much in the accounts that it offers, but rather in the specific arguments that it presents in defense of those accounts.
The interplay between questions about precedence and questions about the level of resolution at which a view’s central insights are best discerned provides another point at which systematic and historical interests intersect.
At one level of resolution we may consider Aristarchus of Samos’s heliocentric model of the universe to be a *precedent* for Copernicus’s model of the solar system, since the accounts have in common that the earth is taken to orbit the sun.
However, at a higher level of resolution — a level that makes more clearly visible what we take to be Copernicus’s central insights — we would attend to the very different ways in which Aristarchus and Copernicus seek to defend their models: Aristarchus, through crude calculations of the relative sizes of the Earth and the Sun conjoined with an appeal to the implausibility of the larger orbiting the smaller; Copernicus, through the relative simplicity of his more detailed heliocentric model of the solar system.
Focusing on arguments, rather than broad claims, we would be less inclined to treat the earlier model as a *precedent* for the latter.
We might nonetheless treat Aristarchus’s account as a precedent *of sorts* for the basic heliocentrist claim.
And Copernicus himself may have treated Aristarchus’s claim as a partial *precursor* for his own.
With those general reflections in hand, let us consider how they apply to our specific target, the priority dispute of Marty over Grice.
We begin with the historical question, i.e. whether, or to what extent, Marty’s account is *causally* connected with Grice’s, before turning to the question of the extent to which there are important commonalities between Marty’s account and Grice’s.
What are the grounds for thinking that Grice’s discussion in “Meaning” draws content, or inspiration, from Marty’s work?
Did Grice even *consider* Marty’s work?
If not, did Grice ever consider those who had considered, and perhaps cited, Marty work?
As far as I am aware, there are no clear grounds for thinking that Grice considered Marty’s work *before* composing “Meaning” for The Oxford Philosophical Society. After is a different question, since Grice lectured frequently in Bielefeld.
However, there may yet be reason to suppose that Grice has *indirect* access to some of the content of Marty’s work.
Here is a case for thinking that Grice did have such access.
I want here briefly to record the basis of the “causal” case, as it strikes me!
The proposal takes off from the central role played in thinking about language by “The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism” by C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards.
Ogden’s and Richards’s “MM,” as Grice abbreviates it elsewhere, has an enormous impact on philosophy.
Although Grice does not quite cite “MM” in “Meaning,” it is very likely that he had considered it.
Grice typically tends *against* full citation, though he does a reasonable job of mentioning individual influences.
However, more evidence would be needed before we could be certain that Grice read, or read carefully, “MM.”
We might add here that Grice had certainly read Stevenson’s “Ethics and Language,” since it is cited in “Meaning”.
And Stevenson cites, and actively engages with, Ogden’s and Richards’ “MM” — even in the passage that Grice directly cites.
Let us assume that Grice had fully read “MM,” and that it exerted some form of influence on his discussion in “Meaning”.
The question now is whether Ogden’s and Richards’s “MM” served as a conduit for Marty’s work.
Initial inspection is disappointing.
Ogden and Richards include no reference to Marty in their index!
However, Ogden and Richards discuss other potentially relevant work.
In particular, Ogden and Richards discuss work by A. H. Gardiner, quoting sympathetically the following passage:
“Is the meaning of a sentence
that which is in the mind
of the [U] at
the moment of utterance
or that which is in the
mind of the [A] at the
moment of audition?”
“Neither, I think.”
“Certainly not that which is in
the mind of the [A], for
he may utterly *misconstrue*
the [U]’s purpose.”
“But also not that which
is in the mind of the [U],
for he may intentionally
*veil* in his utterance the
thoughts which are in his brain,
and this, of course, he could
not do if the meaning of
the utterance were precisely
that which he held in his brain.”
“I think the following
formulation meets the case.”
“The meaning of any sentence
is what the [U] intends
to be understood from it
by the [A].”
Gardiner’s proposal is *strikingly similar* to — though hardly *identical* with — Grice’s account, and is taken very seriously by Ogden and Richards.
That is of some independent interest.
But does it aid our search for a connection back to *Marty*?
Specifically, can we trace a line of influence from Marty to Gardiner?
Gardiner cites Marty in a very positive way:
“Most theorists on language have been alive to this standpoint of attending to the U’s purposes, but Marty alone, so far as my understanding goes, is entirely *impregnated* with it.”
“Marty’s statement of the *purpose* of language agrees closely with my own definition.”
“Language is any system of articulate symbols having reference to the facts of experience, whereby U seeks to influence the minds of the A in a given direction.”
So, Gardiner provides us with the remaining portion of our path back to Marty.
Disappointingly, as the quote indicates, Gardiner finds in Marty a more or less generic appeal to U’s intentions and, more specifically, U’s intentions to *influence* the A’s mind.
That means that Gardiner’s own proposal is *closer* to Grice’s than is the less specific view that Gardiner admits to finding in Marty.
Insofar, then, as the path of possible influence that we have traced from Marty to Grice — via Gardiner, Ogden and Richards, and Stevenson — is the only, or main, line of influence, the most that we can say is this.
Marty’s work, as so transmitted, may have suggested to Grice, or supported his standing interest in, the idea that U’s intentions to influence the minds of the A are important determinants of what U means.
However, the *specificity* of Grice’s account, together with his objections to other views that also attend in this general way to U’s intentions, means that the connection is less decisive than some might have hoped.
Nonetheless, it seems reasonable to hold that Marty’s work did exert at least an *indirect* influence on Grice’s.
I now turn to considering the more delicate question of the precise shape that that influence takes.
In “Meaning”, Grice presents his account in the following way:
(i) U meantNN something by x.
is (roughly) equivalent to
(ii) U intends the utterance of x to produce some effect in A by means of the *recognition* of this intention.
“And we may add that to ask what U means is to ask for a specification of the intended effect.”
Grice presents this as an account of what he calls “non-natural” meaning.
The contrast is with cases of merely “natural” meaning, including the connection between smoke and fire when we say that smoke ‘means’ fire — sic in scare quotes in Stevenson!
As noted, the question of *precedence* depends on the prior, systematic question of what we take to be Grice’s central insight or insights.
As Grice presents his account, we might focus on any of the five following candidate insights (presented at increasingly high levels of resolution):
What U means by u is determined by U’s intentions.
What U means by u is determined by U’s intentions to have a specific range of effects on A’s psychology.
What U means by u is determined by U’s intentions to have a specific range of effects on A’s psychology by means of A’s *recognising* certain features of U’s psychology.
What U means by u is determined by U’s intentions to have a specific range of effects on A’s psychology by means of A’s *recognising* U’s intention to have certain effects on A’s psychology.
What U means by u is determined by U’s intentions to have a specific range of effects on A’s psychology by means of A’s *recognising* that *very* intention — i. e. what U means is determined by some of his specifically reflexive intentions.
The five insights differ in specificity and, in particular, with respect to the specification they offer of the intentions that are taken to determine what U means.
Insight I is just that U’s intentions figure in determining what U means.
Insight II entails Insight I, but goes beyond it in requiring that it is U’s intentions specifically to influence A’s psychology that determines what U means.
The insight at level three entails that at level two but goes beyond it in requiring that the operative intention is to influence A’s psychology by means of the audience’s recognition of something about U’s psychologies.
The level-four insight outstrips the level three insight by requiring that influence on A’s psychology is to be achieved through A’s recognition of U’s intention to have such effects.
Finally, the level-five insight entails the level four insight by embodying that insight in specifically reflexive form: the intention taken to determine what U means is an intention to influence A’s psychology by means of A’s recognition *of that very intention*.
It is Insight V that most closely tracks Grice’s explicit presentation of his position.
The question of influence depends, then, on three questions:
1) At which level of resolution should we locate Marty’s central insights?
2) At which level of resolution should we locate Grice’s central insights?
3) Do the insights visible at those levels of resolution match?
Is Grice’s central insight reasonably viewed as a version of Marty’s?
Do Marty’s and Grice’s respective insights occur at different levels of resolution?
I’ll be suggesting that Marty’s central insight is visible at around level three, whilst Grice’s insight is most clearly seen at levels four or five.
Although there are clear similarities between Marty’s position and Grice’s at lower levels of resolution, Grice’s central insight is not yet visible at those levels of resolution.
Put another way:
Although some of Marty’s insights are reflected in Grice’s work, Grice’s central insights are *not* to be found in Marty’s.
We may develop a case for that verdict by considering the first question:
What *is* Marty’s insight?
Let us consider some passages to which appeal has been made in attributing an intention-based account of meaning to Marty.
Marty provides an initial summary of his position:
“Language is primarily understood as the *intentional indication* of inner life.”
“However, what is primarily intended in this indication is a corresponding *influence* of foreign inner life.”
“As a rule, one indicates one’s own presentations, judgments, emotions, &c., in order to trigger presentations, judgments and emotions in *another* psychical being, and indeed, ones which are analogous to one’s own.”
Here, Marty’s proposal is the following.
Language use is a form of intentional activity.
One speaks in order to attain certain ends.
More specifically, Marty suggests *two* intentions that figure in shaping one’s linguistic activity.
1) iIn speaking, U intends to “indicate” specific aspects of his own inner life.
Thus, for example, in speaking to A, U maybaim to indicate, or to make recognisable, that one harbours, say, a specific belief or feeling, that “p.”
However, Marty suggests that that would be a *secondary* intention, a means to U’s primary end.
2) U’s primary intention in indicating to A this aspect of one’s inner life would be to exert a “corresponding influence” on *A*’s inner life.
That generic characterisation leaves open whether A’s primary intention is served merely by A’s *recognition* that U harbours the indicated belief, feeling, or other aspect of inner life.
That would be one way in which U’s indication figures in exerting a corresponding influence on A’s inner life.
However, Marty appears to have something more specific in mind — viz., that U’s primary intention is that A not only come to recognise that U harbours the indicated aspect of inner life, but that *A* should thereby come to harbour an “analogous” aspect of inner life (“Yes; it is raining; you’ve quite convinced me!”).
In cases in which the indicated aspect of inner life is a belief, it would be natural to view U’s intention as being that A should come to have the same, or approximately the same, kind of belief.
In cases in which the indicated aspect of inner life is a feeling (“I’m in pain”) that would be less natural.
Perhaps the proposal in the “feeling” case would be that A needn’t come to share the same kind of feeling, but that they would nonetheless need to go beyond mere recognition of the feeling, perhaps by engaging in some form of *empathy* (“Sorry seems to be the hardest word.”).
Marty does not here quite commit to the claim that either or both of the intentions that he mentions figures in *determining* what U means by their utterance.
But that would be a natural extrapolation, and is something to which Marty appears elsewhere to commit.
When so construed, we can certainly find in Marty the Insight I: the claim that what U means by an utterance is *determined* by their intentions.
Furthermore, we can also find Insight II: the intentions to which Marty appeals are intentions to have a specific range of effects on A’s psychology, specifically that A comes to recognise and thereby to share (or e.g. appropriately to empathize with) a target aspect of U’s inner life.
Finally, we can reach Insight III: focusing on U’s primary intention as the central determinant of what U means, we can see that that overarching end is to be attained via A’s recognition of the aspect of inner life that U indicates.
What we do not find is the more specific level four insight, according to which I’d *primary* intention is to be achieved via A’s *recognition* specifically of one or other of U’s intentions, as opposed to other aspects of their inner life.
Although that insight is consistent with what Marty says, it nonetheless goes beyond anything that he makes explicit.
Compare, now, a passage in which Marty’s intention-based account of meaning appears:
“The name signifies the idea; the statement signifies a judgment, and what we call the *meaning* of an expression is in each case that very content of the soul to evoke which in A is its essential reference and its ultimate aim (be it by nature or by habit), provided that at the same time it has the ability to reach this aim as a rule.”
“Nevertheless, it never reaches this aim immediately, but only by being at the same time a sign of the psychological phenomena in U.”
Here, Marty makes explicit that the meaning of an expression (as opposed, perhaps, to what U means by an utterance of that expression) is determined by “ultimate aim” — so, plausibly, by intention.
Specifically, meaning is identified with the aspect of inner life that U intends A to come (approximately) to share.
As before, that ultimate end is to be achieved by means of A’s recognition of corresponding, or analogous, psychological phenomena in U.
But, again, there is no explicit commitment to Insight IV that the operative psychological phenomena are U’s intentions.
As far as I have been able to ascertain, Marty does not anywhere make claims about meaning that would compel us to locate his position at level four or above.
If that is right, the question whether Marty has priority turns on the question whether Grice’s central insight is visible only at levels four or five.
Before turning to the question *where* Grice should be located on our list of insights, it will be worth considering where _Gardiner_ should be placed!
Recall Gardiner’s formulation of his position — and, by extension, the position that he attributed to Marty’s:
“The meaning of any sentence is
what U intends to be understood from
it by A.”
Gardiner, it seems, does not go further that level two.
That is, Gardiner claims only that what U means by u is determined by their intentions to have a specific range of effects on A’s psychology — in particular, their intention that A should comes to understand an uttered sentence or utterance.
Gardiner says nothing here about the role of A’s recognition of aspects of U’s psychology in facilitating their understanding.
If Gardiner serves as Grice’s only conduit, it is therefore plausible that Grice’s access to Marty’s work would have been confined to Marty’s Insight II.
Let us turn, then, to the question of *where* Grice’s position should be located on our list of five insights.
We shall focus on Grice’s own wording.
Grice certainly seeks to go beyond level two, since he argues explicitly *against* a position that rests at that point:
“A first shot would be to suggest
(i) x meantNN something.
would be true if x was intended by U to induce a belief in A and that to say what the belief was would be to say what x meantNN.”
“This will clearly *not* do,” he emphatically points out to his Oxford audience.
“U might leave Smith’s handkerchief near the scene of a murder in order to induce the detective A to believe that Smith is the murderer.”
“But we should not want to say that U’s leaving the handkerchief there) meansNN anything or that U meansNN by leaving it that Smith is the murderer.”
Although he argues for the need to go beyond level two, Grice leaps immediately to endorsement of a level-four insight, without pausing to consider the standing of the less specific insight available at level three.
“Clearly we must add at least that, for x to meanNN anything, not merely must it have been uttered with the intention of inducing a certain belief but also U must have intended A to recognize the intention behind u.”
However, it is plausible that Grice would have taken an argument to be available against remaining at level three that is analogous to the argument that he brings against remaining at level two.
Thus, U may e. g. try to arrange things so that A comes to see, on the basis of observing some behaviour of U’s, that U believes that Smith is the murderer, with the intention of inducing A to come also to believe that Smith is the murderer.
As in Grice’s handkerchief case, it seems implausible to suppose that this would suffice for U’s meaningNN anything by my belief-revealing behaviour.
Again, a minimal fix would be to add a requirement that there be an intention on U’s part that, on the basis of observing U’s performance, A is, in addition, to recognize U’s intention that A comes to believe that Smith is the murderer.
Grice focuses on the “insufficiency” for meaningNN of U’s intending to influence A’s psychology by means of A’s recognition of a piece of U’s psychology.
However, it’s worth noticing that an analogous point could be made with respect to the claim that this is a “necessary” condition.
For although it is plausibly a “necessary” condition on meaningNN that, as Grice claims, U should intend A to recognize U’s intention, it is *not* plausibly a *necessary* condition that U should intend A to recognize anything else about U’s psychology.
It seems obvious, e.g. that U may mean by u that Smith is the murderer without U in fact believing that Smith is the murderer.
Now that seems to be so even if U should know that he does not believe that Smith is the murderer.
And it seems to be so even if, in addition, U knows that one cannot recognize what is not so.
Since one cannot reasonably intend what one knows to be impossible, U in that position cannot reasonably intend A to recognize that U believes that Smith is the murderer, and so cannot reasonably intend to influence A’s psychology by means of A’s recognizing that.
However, none of that seems to stand in the way either of U meaning something by what U says or—connectedly, according to Grice’s level four insight—of their intending A to recognize their intention to influence A to believe that Smith is the murderer.
If that line of thought is correct, there is reason to hold, not only that Grice thinks that there are good reasons to go beyond level three, but also that Grice is correct to think that.
In that case, it seems reasonable to identify Grice’s central insight as occurring either at level four or at level five.
Thus, it seems reasonable to view Grice’s insight as going beyond anything to be found in Marty’s work.
There are commonalities between Grice’s work and Marty’s.
However, significant differences emerge at higher levels of resolution.
Grice’s contribution to our understanding of U’s meaning plausibly goes beyond the commonalities.
It would therefore be misleading to treat Marty as having *priority* except with respect to the lesser insights that Marty and Grice share.
Although the commonalities between Grice’s work and Marty’s are comparatively *uninteresting,* there may yet be something to learn from some of their differences.
One such difference is the one recently isolated.
Marty thinks that A’s recognition of elements of U’s psychology other than U’s intentions can play a central role in communicative transactions, whilst Grice thinks that only recognition of U’s intentions figures in determining meaning.
When presented in that way, it is possible to endorse both viewpoints, since it would be consistent with denying that elements of U’s psychology figure in determining what U means to accept that the elements play other important roles in communication.
However, we may consider a way in which Grice’s emphasis on intention over other elements of psychology induces an apparent problem.
And we’ll see that Marty’s counter-emphasis might provide the resources for a satisfying dissolution.
Grice reflects further on the topic of “non-natural” or meaning in “Meaning Revisited,” written years after “Meaning” was published.
In “Meaning, revisited,” Grice attempts to provide a more synoptic perspective on the relation between natural and “non-natural” meaning, and on his account of non-natural meaning.
Grice’s discussion begins by emphasising a way in which natural meaning can figure in revealing aspects of psychology:
“In the case of natural meaning, among the things which have natural meaning, besides black clouds, spots on the face, and symptoms of this or that disease, are certainly forms of behavior: things like groans, screeches, and so on, which ‘mean,’ or normally ‘mean,’ that someone or something is in pain or some other state.”
Grice’s aim is to try to explain ways in which such natural expressions of human psychology as groans and screeches might conceivably have come to be replaced by “non-natural” expressions as characterised in his account of non-natural meaning.
To a good first approximation, the aim is to account for a conceivable transition from behaviour that expresses bits of psychology to subjects who express bits of their psychologies — e.g., the transition from the expression of suffering in a groan to the intentional expression of suffering by its subject.
Although Grice doesn’t highlight this, it is important to notice that the account of “non-natural” meaning arguably retains an essential role for behaviour that naturally means bits of its producer’s psychology.
For Grice’s account of “non-natural” meaning relies upon the possibility that a producer’s behaviour can reveal those of U’s intentions that figure in determining what U “non-naturally” means by u.
And the connection between behaviour and intention on which the possibility of such revelation of intention in behaviour depends must be a form of the relation of natural meaning.
Grice’s account begins, then, with the idea of pieces of behaviour as naturally meaning bits of psychology, and so as potentially revealing to the appropriately sensitive those bits of psychology.
On that basis, Grice seeks to develop, in a series of stages, a conceivable developmental trajectory leading to the emergence of “non-natural” meaning.
“Stage I involves the supposition that U actually voluntarily produces a certain sort of behavior which is such that its nonvoluntary production would be evidence that U is, let us say, in pain.”
“The kinds of cases of this which come most obviously to mind will be cases of faking or deception.”
Thus, we have the idea of a sort of behaviour that— at Stage 0 —naturally means, and so potentially provides evidence for, U’s being in pain.
However, at stage I, U has acquired the capacity to produce behaviour of that sort voluntarily —that is, as constituting a piece of intentional action.
A sort of behaviour that had naturally meant pain now *fails* to naturally mean pain, at least on those occasions on which the behaviour is the immediate upshot of intention rather than felt pain.
At stage I, it is allowed that A does not, and perhaps cannot, keep track of the shift in sources of the target sort of behaviour.
Thus, at stage I, it is plausible that A that were appropriately sensitive to the target sort of behaviour at stage 0 will continue to treat voluntary productions of that behaviour as “naturally” meaning, and so as revelatory of, pain.
A become cognizant of the voluntariness of some instances of the sort of behaviour at stage II:
“In stage II, not only does U produce this behavior voluntarily instead of nonvoluntarily, as in Stage I, but we also assume that it is recognized by A, involved with U in some transaction, as being the voluntary production of a certain form of behavior the nonvoluntary production of which evidences, say, pain.”
“The import of the recognition by A that the production is voluntary *undermines*, of course, any tendency on the part of A to come to the conclusion that U is in pain.”
A will no longer treat as revelatory of pain those instances of the target sort of behaviour that they recognize to be the immediate upshot of intention, rather than of felt pain.
Plausibly, that is because A will treat those instances of behaviour as revelatory of the intention with which the behaviour was undertaken and take that to be incompatible with the behaviour also being the immediate upshot of pain.
It is worth noticing that Grice does not suggest grounds here for thinking that coming to recognize that some instances of the target sort of pain behaviour have an intentional source would throw into doubt the standing of those instances of such behaviour that do have an immediate source in felt pain.
Grice does not, i. e. seek to present a broader sceptical worry about A’s capacities ever to recognize that a piece of behaviour naturally means pain that might be thought to arise from the fact that a single sort of behaviour is now recruited as an expression of either pain or intention.
And raising that concern would be problematic in this context, since it would seem equally to threaten A’s capacities to recognize that some instances of the target behaviour naturally mean intention.
The specific concern is just that recognizing a piece of behaviour as having its immediate source in intention would render unreasonable treating that instance of behaviour as also having its immediate source in felt pain.
At least by stage II, then, we are presented with an apparent problem.
Suppose that U hopes to reveal to A that one is in pain, or has a specific opinion, or the like.
One might think that a natural way to proceed would be by undertaking behaviour that one takes to be a recognizable expression of pain, opinion, or the like.
The problem U now faces is that if A recognizes U’s performance as the immediate expression of U’s intention so to behave, it will be unreasonable for A also to treat U’s performance as expressing anything other than the intention with which U so behaved.
If we are specifically considering speech as evidence, we will have eventually to face the question of how recognition of its intentional character could ever enhance rather than detract from its epistemic value for A.
Ordinarily, if I confront something as evidence and then learn that it was left there deliberately, this only discredits it as evidence in A’s eyes.
It won’t seem better evidence, or even just as good, but instead like something fraudulent, or tainted evidence.
As presented by Grice, the problem emerges only at stage II, the stage at which A comes to recognize that a sort of behaviour that had once naturally meant only pain has been recruited so as to naturally mean also an intention with which the behaviour was undertaken.
However, it is arguable that the basic problem emerges at stage I.
At stage I we have that a sort of behaviour each instance of which once naturally meant, say, pain now has instances that naturally mean intention.
Thecproblem presented by Grice is not the generic sceptical problem that particular instances of that sort of behaviour now mean either pain or intention, and so fail either to mean pain or to mean intention.
Rather, it is a more specific problem.
We are to suppose that some instances of the sort of behaviour naturally mean intention.
The problem is that that intention itself might have been the upshot either of pain or of some other bits of psychology.
Thus, the behaviour, in naturally meaning, and so potentially revealing, the intention with which it was undertaken at the same time screens off from immediate revelation in behaviour the pain that U might have hoped to reveal.
At best, the pain is the immediate source of U’s intention, rather than U’s behaviour, and so is not immediately revealed in U’s behaviour.
The problem does not distinctively affect only any A that recognizes that a piece of behaviour has its immediate source in intention rather than pain.
A A that hasn’t yet recognized this are no better placed to exploit the natural meaning of intentional behaviour in order to recognize pain, since such behaviour does not in fact naturally mean pain, but (at least in the first instance) only intention.
We might allow that an A who treats the behaviour as revealing pain whilst failing to recognize the behaviour’s intentional source is in some sense more reasonable than an A who seeks to reconcile treating the behaviour as revealing pain whilst recognizing that it reveals only intention.
But if what Grice presents is a genuine problem, even at stage I, neither party is in a position to recognize the behaviour as having its immediate source in pain, since one can recognize only that which is so, and the behaviour originates not in pain, but rather in intention.
In the face of the apparent problem, Grice asks:
“What would be required to
restore the situation?”
“What could be added which
would be an antidote, so to speak,
to the dissolution on the part of A of the idea that U is in pain?”
In setting up the problem, Grice in effect assumes that where a piece of behaviour is produced voluntarily— as expressive of an intention so to behave— the piece of behaviour naturally means the intention.
In the first instance, the behaviour fails to be revelatory of any aspect of U’s psychology distinct from the intention that is immediately responsible for the behaviour.
Thus, any intention to behave in a way designed to reveal more than the intention immediately responsible for the behaviour seems bound to be unsatisfied.
And cognizance of that fact would make it impossible for a rational subject to form an intention to reveal anything beyond the intention with which the behaviour was undertaken.
Grice’s response to the problem has two components.
The *first* component exploits the fact that a piece of behaviour can naturally mean, and so reveal, the intention with which it was undertaken.
If that intention is to be satisfiable, it cannot be an intention to reveal in behaviour anything other than itself, for only the intention itself is immediately reflected in the behaviour that it shapes.
Grice ensures that the intention is satisfiable by making it the reflexive intention that it— the intention with which the behaviour was undertaken— be recognisable.
Grice’s response to the difficulty converges with Insight V characterised above.
In place of the sort of intention involved at stage I, merely to present a sort of behaviour that other creatures would be unable to distinguish from that revelatory of pain, the *reflexive intention* is to present behaviour that reveals itself as an open revelation of some of one’s motives in so behaving.
The *second* component of Grice’s response seeks to restore a route from such behaviour, via the *reflexive* intention with which it was produced, to the psychological facts that the performance was designed to make available:
“Whether or not in these circumstances A will not merely recognise that U intends, in a certain queer way, to get A to believe that U is in pain, whether A not only recognizes this but actually goes on to believe that U is in pain, would presumably depend on a further set of conditions which can be summed up under the general heading that A should regard U as trustworthy in one or another of perhaps a variety of ways.”
In short, what is required would be akin to an inferential transition, via premises to the effect that U would not intend openly to communicate that U is in pain (or in some other psychological condition) unless he was in fact in pain (or in the other psychological condition).
One natural worry at this point concerns A’s entitlement to regard U as, in the required ways, trustworthy.
A’s merely assuming this might serve to underwrite their forming the requisite belief that U is in pain, and to that extent serve some of U’s purposes.
But it is implausible that a mere assumption of trustworthiness could in general figure in A’s acquiring knowledge that U is in pain.
Thus, insofar as A and U care about whether A comes to know that U is in pain—as opposed, say, to merely assuming or surmising it—it seems that a further story must be told about A’s entitlement to regard Unas trustworthy.
And insofar as the specific intention with which U acts is taken to screen off any of their further motives from A, it is not straightforward to see what account is to be given of A’s warrant for regarding U as trustworthy.
Alternatively, it would need to be explained how merely regarding U as appropriately trustworthy—that is, without possessing any warrant for so regarding them—could sponsor a route to knowledge, as opposed to mere opinion, about their psychological condition.
Whatever the fate of such approaches to restoring a route from intentional behaviour to underlying psychology, one might reasonably wonder whether those approaches are needed.
For one might reasonably wonder whether the problem that Grice presents is genuine.
It is here that an apparent difference between Marty and Grice assumes importance.
Marty, unlike Grice, may be read as holding that a piece of behaviour might be both intentional and nonetheless capable of revealing to A bits of U’s psychology other than the intention with which the behaviour was produced.
Marty discusses the way in which behaviour can mean, and so reveal, aspects of U’s psychology in the following passage:
“Where we have to do with
an unintentional indication of
our inner life, for example,
with an unintentional shout, in
such a case, to mean and to be a
sign means only to indicate
something and to make it known,
just as one says of thunder
that it is a sign of electric discharge,
and of dark clouds that they are a
sign of rain.”
“Just like an involuntary shout, the voluntary uttering of a name or of a statement indicates a piece of U’s psychical life.”
Marty’s discussion prefigures one theme in Grice: the idea that a piece of unintentional behaviour can naturally mean, and so reveal, aspects of U’s inner life.
However, Marty seems to diverge from Grice in his conception of the revelatory power of intentional behaviour.
For Marty seems to suggest that the voluntary uttering of a name or a statement, just like an involuntary shout, can naturally mean, and so reveal, aspects of U’s inner life.
Strictly, of course, that would be consistent with Grice’s view, according to which such behaviour can naturally mean, and so reveal, only one sort of aspect of U’s inner life: the intentions with which the behaviour was produced.
However, Marty’s account incorporates a broader conception than Grice’s of the revelatory power of human behaviour.
In effect, it is this broader conception that figures in Marty’s failure to attain Grice’s specific insights into the nature of non-natural meaning—that is, to attain insights at level four and five.
The fact that the utterance “Socrates exists” when uttered efficiently indicates U’s judgement: Socrates exists is independent of the U’s secondary intention, their intention to indicate the/their judgment: Socrates exists, just as thunder indicates lightning independently of anybody’s will or intention.
Marty’s proposal is that the relation between a piece of behaviour—in this case, an utterance—and a judgement—so an aspect of psychology distinct from the intention implemented in the behaviour—can be akin to the connection between thunder and lightning.
That is, the relation can be one of natural meaning.
One may read Marty as endorsing that view of the relation between behaviour and judgement even in cases in which U intends to indicate, and so to reveal, their judgement to A.
Even if we assume that Marty diverges from Grice on this point, the best explanation for that divergence may be simply that Marty fails to reflect on the potential effects of intention in screening off behaviour from other aspects of inner life.
That is, it may be that Marty fails adequately to consider the impact on his favoured model of the relation between behaviour and its psychological sources of allowing that some of its immediate sources are intentions.
However, a more tantalising possibility is that Marty’s disagreement with Grice on this point is principled, and due to Marty’s seeming perception, of a way in which behaviour can be both intentional and at the same time revelatory of aspects of psychology other than intention.
As far as I’m aware, Marty didn’t offer an explicit account of how behaviour that was intentional might nonetheless naturally mean aspects of psychology other than intention.
Marty’s main contribution at this point arises from his willingness to allow for that possibility.
For that willingness reveals to us that there is a question here, one that might have been concealed by Grice’s presentation of his purported problem.
In revealing the existence of a question at this point, Marty compels us to address it, rather than simply assuming the correctness of the answer offered by Grice.
The question whether the purported problem is genuine is delicate.
I want to conclude by suggesting two ways in which an attempt might be made to defend the type of position suggested in the passage from Marty.
The first way in which an attempt might be made to defend Marty’s suggestion in effect exploits a way in which he needn’t be regarded as in direct conflict with Grice.
Grice is committed to the view that his problem arises in cases in which behaviour is intentional in the strong sense of being the immediate upshot of, and so shaped by, an intention so to behave.
By contrast, it might be possible to read Marty as contemplating a more generous conception of voluntary behaviour, on which the behaviour is not itself the immediate upshot of an intention, but rather is merely condoned, as in accord with U’s intentions.
The model here would be one on which the behaviour is the immediate upshot of, and so naturally means, a judgement, rather than an intention.
It is voluntary, and so intentional, only in the sense that U could have intervened by preventing the behaviour and yet didn’t, and in that sense condoned the behavioural expression of the judgement.
The fact that a piece of behaviour is in that thin sense voluntary or intentional need be in no conflict with its being an immediate expression of aspects of psychology other than intention.
If Marty wished only to endorse that possibility, it would be possible for he and Grice to both be right about the different cases that they treat.
The first way in which an attempt might be made to defend Marty’s proposal is, for at least two reasons, meagre.
The first reason is that it leaves open that Grice’s problem is genuine with respect to all cases of fully intentional behaviour.
The second, related reason is that it would be natural to think that the most interesting class of cases, including most or all cases of voluntary utterance, will be intentional in the more demanding way exploited in generating Grice’s problem.
That is, it would be natural to think that the activity involved in voluntary speech is the immediate upshot of intention, rather than being an immediate upshot of some other aspect of psychology that could have been, and wasn’t, intentionally prevented.
Even accepting the possibility of cases of the sort to which appeal was made in the first attempt at defence, one might reasonably hope for a more direct response.
The second way in which an attempt might be made to defend Marty’s proposal builds on materials in the first, but constitutes a more direct response.
It retains from the first attempt the idea that bits of behaviour can naturally mean, and so reveal, bits of psychology.
In order for the behaviour to have that natural connection with the psychology, the idea was, the behaviour must be an immediate upshot of the revealed aspects of psychology.
Grice’s purported problem is then the following.
Where an activity is intentional, it must be the immediate upshot of the intention with which it was undertaken, rather than being the immediate upshot of any piece of psychology distinct from that intention.
In that case, it is difficult to see how an intentional activity can naturally mean any piece of psychology distinct from the operative intention.
However, in setting up Grice’s problem, we follow Grice in assuming that the intention and the competing aspect of psychology have a single sort of upshot, the occurrence of instances of a single sort of behaviour.
Given that assumption, we would have a single type of activity—the target sort of behaviour—over the dominion of which intention and other aspects of psychology are forced to compete.
The second attempt concedes that if we were compelled to accept that assumption, Grice’s problem would be genuine, but proposes that we need not accept the assumption.
The proposal, then, is that we should reject the assumption that exactly the same upshot must be involved in the target cases of intentional and unintentional behaviour.
Rather, we should allow that, in at least some cases, the activity that is the immediate upshot of intention isn’t simply the behavioural surface of the unintentional behaviour, but is rather an activity involving the manifestation of psychology in behaviour.
In such cases, what the producer intends, and is sometimes capable of achieving, is not simply the replication of a piece of behaviour, but is instead an action that involves the revelation of psychology in behaviour.
The behavioural surface is the immediate upshot of aspects of psychology other than intention, and so there is no competition for dominion there.
The expressive episode as a whole is the immediate upshot of intention rather than other aspects of psychology, and so there is no competition there either.
The other aspects of psychology figure as partly constituting, rather than as causing, the expressive episode by virtue of their role in causing the behavioural surface of that episode.
Their figuring in that way is therefore perfectly compatible with the intention playing the complementary role of causing the expressive episode as a whole, rather than its behavioural surface.
More work would be required in articulating the line of defence all too briefly sketched here before we would be in a position properly to assess it.
However, I hope to have said enough to indicate that the question that Marty forces on us has no simple resolution.
Let me recap.
I offered some general reflections on what we might hope to achieve by pursuing historical questions of priority, and some ways in which the answers to such historical questions can interact with the pursuit of questions of a more systematic nature.
I considered the question whether the production of Grice’s essay could have been influenced by Marty’s work, and drew on a suggestion in support of the answer that Marty’s work may well have exerted an *indirect* influence on Grice.
I explored some similarities and differences between Marty’s work and Grice’s that are differentially visible at different levels of resolution, and suggested that the central insights that are present in Grice’s essay are absent from Marty’s work.
Full assessment of that claim will be dependent on further reflection on the extent to which the purported insights in Grice’s essay are genuine.
I considered an apparent problem that Grice presented for the natural idea that intentional behaviour can manifest or express bits of psychology other than their productive intention.
One important difference between Marty and Grice centres on their different reactions to this issue.
While Grice treats it as a genuine problem for the natural idea of intentional expression, we saw that Marty treats the problem as merely apparent.
My aim has been to suggest that one thing we can learn from Marty—and from historical reflection more generally— is that claims that might otherwise have struck us as uncontestable are contestable, since contested.
We may have as much to learn from reflecting on differences amongst thinkers in our subject’s history as we do from reflecting on their commonalities.