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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Thursday, February 26, 2015

"Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purposes of the exchange)": how indefinite Grice can get


Grice was obsessed with informativeness, and shall we say, definiteness.

In the early "Implicature" seminars at Oxford, he never mentioned Kant, so this canonical idea of one cooperative principle from which FOUR categories of maxims follows (one of which being that of QUANTITY and having to do with informativeness), while echoing Kant, is just jocular.

In the early "Implicature" seminars he mentions SOMETHING like it but it is not the canonical Kantian jocular categorization he is using.

Note also the interesting discussion in the section he never cared to reprint in WoW (Way of Words) from his "Causal theory of perception". There, he contrasts:

i. That pillar box seems red to me.


ii. That pillar box IS red.

He says that intuitively, (ii) looks STRONGER than (i), but he's not sure. Because he, like I do, wants to stick with a truth-functional account of 'strength' in terms of entailment.

p is stronger than q is p entails q but q does not entail p.

But neither (i) nor (ii) entail each other. So there is no way by which, approaching 'strength' (or informativeness) in terms of entailment, works there.

Jones is considering the definite/indefinite distinction, which may relate.

Jones writes:

"The Church type annotations should not have the commas in, he just used juxtaposition for the function space, with the co-domain first I think, so "oi" is the type of functions from individuals (i) to propositions (o) and the type of definite description should be "i(oi)" these days more often written ((i->o)->i)."

Good to know.

The focus being on 'individual'.

Strawson's book is entitled "Individuals", subtitled, an essay in metaphysics, descriptive.

And I was wondering about an example of a description in Grice's "Vacuous Names":

A: Marmaduke Bloggs?
B: Yes, the Merseyside local who climbed Mount Everest on hands and knees.
A: Yes, what about him?
B: Well, The Merseyside Geographical Society is hosting a party in his honour at the town hall.
A: But he won't be there.
B: Who?
A: Marmaduke Bloggs.
B: Why?!
B: He was invented by the journalists.

I was thinking that Strawson, I think, would take spatio-temporal continuity as a criterion for basic individuality (or individuation).

So Marmaduke Bloggs isn't an individual.

Yet, he was invented by the journalists.

So, while we may grant, with Grice, that Marmaduke Bloggs doesn't exist (neither does the present king of France), he (Marmaduke Bloggs) is the invention of the journalists. So there's things we can predicate about him.

I HOPE it's some sense of this way of using 'individual' in the above calculus mentioned by R. B. Jones that the expression is used!

It would be sad to exclude Marmaduke Bloggs, or, to use the vocabulary of definite descriptions, "the Merseyside local who climbed Mount Everest on hands and knees" from the realm of individuation just because there are no corresponding exemplars!

Jones goes on:

"Without choice iota is definite description not indefinite."

That's good, without choice axiom. This is important, because if, like Carnap, we see this as an internal question, then whether one accepts this or that axiom (choice) then the corresponding questions (never metaphysical, or just external) vary!

Jones goes on:

"Adding choice turns it into indefinite description (which entails choice)."

Good. I like the idea of an axiom being entailed. (Curiously, entailment, in its logical use, was a 'coinage' by Moore -- while the term was used in hereditary matters, as we know).

[ODD that the most important keywords in philosophical logic are odd pieces of vocabulary: Moore's entailment (drawn from legal geneology) and implicature (Sidonius had used it, but Griceians usually forget!].

Jones goes on:

"Alternatively instead of expressing choice as an axiom which makes iota a choice operator, you can use a new symbol: Hilbert's epsilon, which is these days typographically distinct from the epsilon used for set membership for indefinite description in the choice axiom and leave iota as definite description."

I see.

I think the symbol now used for epsilon, then, is

while the symbol for set membership is, rather:
"[F]or indefinite description in the choice axiom and leave iota as definite description.

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