The Grice Club


The Grice Club

The club for all those whose members have no (other) club.

Is Grice the greatest philosopher that ever lived?

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

The logic of collectives

Today's World Wide Words, ed. M. Quinion, reminds us of "The Book of St. Albans", 1486, with the list of collective nouns for birds, including:

murmuration of starlings
unkindness of ravens
tiding of magpies
exaltation of larks

Implicatures of "Carve"

From today's World Wide Words, ed. M. Quinion:

"Under the heading, "Terms of a Carver" (in a 1508 book,The Book of Carving", 1508)appeared a list of the terms for carving *any type* of flesh, fowl or fish. The attentive reader (the master of a big household, not an illiterate servant, presumably) was instructed that one should

break a deer
disfigure a peacock
dismember a heron
lift a swan
unjoint a bittern
unbrace a mallard
thigh a pigeon
splat a pike
scull a tench
culpon a trout.

But never, never

"kills fleas and ticks that infest your yard, and then your pet"

From Quinion's World Wide Words: an online advert for Virbac Yard Spray, Robert Bendesky discovered, lists the following as one of its benefits: "Kills fleas and ticks that infest your yard, and then your pet".

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Gricean Singer

From Krehbiel, "Chapters of Opera":

"The preparation of "Siegfried" for performance led to an encounter between him and Mr. Seidl, in which the unamiable side of his disposition, and the shallowness of his artistic nature were disclosed. At the dress rehearsal, when alone on the stage, he started in to go through his part in dumbshow. Seidl requested him to sing. "It is not necessary; I know my part," was the ungracious reply. "But this is a rehearsal. It is not enough that you know your part or that you know that you know your part. I must know that you know it. Others must sing with you, and they must hear you." He started the orchestra again. Not a sound from the puffed up little tenor in his picturesque bearskin and pretty legs. Seidl rapped for silence, and put down his baton. "Call Mr. Stanton!" he commanded. Mr. Stanton was brought from his office, and Mr. Seidl briefly explained the situation. He would not go on with the rehearsal unless Mr. Alvary sang, and without a rehearsal there would be no first performance of "Siegfried" to-morrow. Mr. Alvary explained that to sing would weary him. "I shall not sing to-day and to-morrow. Choose; I'll sing either to-day or to-morrow." "Sing to-day!" said Stanton curtly, and turned away from the stage. Like a schoolboy Alvary now began to sing with all his might, as if bound to incapacitate himself for the next day. But he would have sacrificed a finger rather than his opportunity on the morrow, and the little misses and susceptible matrons got the hero whom they adored for years afterward."

Sunday, October 17, 2010


From today's World Wide Words, ed. M. Quinion:

"Weird Word: Aposematic. I came across the word in an article about Bristol Zoo, which has
set up an amphibian sanctuary to breed two endangered species. One
of them is the golden mantella frog native to Madagascar, which is
a brilliant golden-orange. The colours are aposematic, referring to
the bright markings or hues exhibited by some living creatures to
warn predators that they are poisonous. (The frog cheats: it isn't
toxic but the colours fool its enemies into thinking it is. Some
writers restrict "aposematic" to such false warnings.)
Though this is common enough in the biological sciences, it's not
often encountered elsewhere. Here's a rare example:
A gigantic bird of prey was descending on him, its
claws outstretched. Its aposematic wings were spread
wide, as wide as the field itself. Looking up in shock,
Hungaman saw how fanciful the wings were, fretted at the
edges, iridescent, bright as a butterfly's wings and as
[Aboard the Beatitude, by Brian W Aldiss, 2002.]
The word is from classical Greek, based on "sema", a sign, which
also appears in "polysemous", the coexistence of many possible
meanings for a word or phrase, and "semantic", relating to meaning
in language or logic. The prefix "apo-" means "away, off, from"."

Griceian application.

Grice wanted to get rid of 'semantic' (technical verbosity he associated with Peirce). Instead, he talked of 'mean'. But 'mean' tends to be 'factive':

"Those black clouds mean rain".

A cloud aposemantic?


Grice was very careful about this. His lectures on Peirce are still unpublished. They belong to the heyday of Oxonian love with the English language, and so they offer a defense for short Anglo-Saxon vernacularisms (like 'mean') rather than '... is an index', "is a non-factively semanticiser of...' and so on, but it's always fair to play! And fun too!

Grice, Studies in the Way of Words.
Grice, "Meaning", in WoW
Grice, "Meaning Revisited", in WoW.
Grice, "Lectures on Peirce, Theory of Signs". Oxford. Bancroft Grice Collection, Bancroft Library, UC/Berkeley. Dated 1946.
Hart, H. L. A. Review of Holloway, "Words and Signs" -- review of Holloway, Language and Intelligence, Philosophical Quarterly, 1952 -- crediting Grice's distinctions.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The tree's good roots

Perhaps we can expand on that example cited in Foot's obit. She claims that the logical form of:

--- The tree has good roots.


--- He performs good deeds

share a 'logical' form. I should revise the strict wording. But it may do to compare Grice and Foot on "good". Good.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Grice on Foot

née Philippa Ruth Bosanquet, in Durhamshire, England, 1920. † 2010.

Grice -- Conception of Value -- discussion of her views in ethics.

From amazon:
Natural Goodness by Philippa Foot (Paperback - Dec 4, 2003)
Virtues and Vices: And Other Essays in Moral Philosophy by Philippa Foot (Paperback - Feb 6, 2003)
Theories of Ethics (Oxford Readings in Philosophy) by Philippa Foot (Paperback - Nov 4, 1976)
Moral Dilemmas: and other topics in moral philosophy by Philippa Foot (Paperback - Mar 27, 2003)
Moral relativism (Lindley lecture, University of Kansas) by Philippa Foot (Unknown Binding - 1979)

Worth discussing.
R. I. P.


Example to discuss from her obituaries:

i. That tree has good roots.
ii. That tree has bad roots.

iii. That person, a good person, performs good deeds.


Grice discusses Foot at large in his "Conception of Value" -- the 'moral army': an army of volunteers or draftees? Grice was especially interested in Foot's idea of morality as a 'system of hypothetical imperatives'. Grice sided more with Hare, and G. J. Warnock, than with Foot's colleague Mary Warnock and others, but it's all worth discussing.

Grice would know of Foot from her long days at Somerville. She would also visit UC/Berkeley -- so more occasion for chit chat.

Admirable lady.

R. I. P.