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?

Search This Blog

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Norman Malcolm, Herbert Paul Grice, and Keith Sedgwick Donnellan


It was Malcolm who invited Grice to Cornell. But Grice knew Black well, too -- and Black will dedicate a brilliant essay to Grice in an attempt to refute him ("The best homage to a philosopher is trying to refute him" -- he was being Popperian. Black failed.

Malcolm being on a sabbatical leave, the Sage (School) provided that semester Grice's seminar on implicature (mainly concentrating on Malcolm, who was absent), and a course on logic (notably Strawson, Introduction to logical theory, that he'll go on to try and refute) given by Donnellan.

Grice's interest in Malcolm's philosophy is an early one. After all, Grice spent most of the early post-war years hearing Austin say, "Some like Witters, but Moore's MY man", and Malcolm was more or less Wittgensteinian, and more to the point, anti-Moorean. Grice quotes from Malcolm's early essay on "Moore and ordinary language".

Grice is concerned with what Malcolm and Grice list as "Philosopher's Paradoxes" (using "Philosopher" as a proper name, almost).

1. There are no material things.
2. Time is unreal.
3. Space is unreal.
4. No-one ever perceives a material thing.
5. No material thing exists unperceived.
6. All that one ever sees when he looks at a thing is part of his own brain.
7. There are no other minds – my sensations are the only sensations that exist.
8. We do not know for certain that there are any other minds.
9. We do not know for certain that the world was not created five minutes ago.
10. We do not know for certain the truth of any statement about material things.
11. All empirical statements are hypotheses.
12. A priori statements are rules of grammar.

Grice refutes Malcolm, and provides ingenious variants of the alleged paradoxes.

When in Cornell, Grice quoted from a later essay by Malcolm (he was on sabbatical leave when Grice gave this Cornell seminar on conversational implicature.

Grice notes that Malcolm injustly accused Moore of having misused the word “know” when he said that he knew that this was one human hand and that this was another human hand.

Malcolm claims that an essential part of the concept “know” is the implication that an inquiry is under way.

But surely that's merely a conversational implicature! 

For the record, self-contradictions are ‘incorrect’ uses of language, but not all so-called ‘incorrect’ uses of language, on this view, are necessarily meaningless.
For example, the ‘sceptical’ use of the term ‘know’ is classified, on Malcolm’s view, as a ‘misuse’ of the term, but only because it is not the ordinary use.

Such a use is, of course, allowed, and obviously it is not meaningless.

But using the term this way requires some further explanation, or indication to the effect that it is not being used in its ordinary sense.

So, contrary to some detractors, on the Ordinary Language view, not all ‘incorrect’ uses, or even ‘misuses’ of expressions are thereby false – nor are they prohibited.

So, it is not prohibited to use expressions in ‘philosophical’ or other novel ways – but one must make reference back to the ordinary use in order to make the new use clear.

When Malcolm was back in Cornell ("the Witters man"), Grice was, paradoxically, gone [+> back in Oxford].

Unlike Black, Malcolm had perhaps a better ear for 'ordinary language' -- but neither Black nor Malcolm had the solid philosophical intuitions and eye for examples that both Grice and Donnellan did.




Ambrose, A. ‘Linguistic Approaches to Philosophical Problems’, Journal of Philosophy, XLIX, pp 289-301.

Austin, J L.  ‘A Plea for Excuses’, in ed. Chappell (1964), pp 41-63.

Bergmann, Gustav ‘Logical Positivism, Language, and the Reconstruction of Metaphysics’ (in part), reprinted in ed. Rorty, pp 63-71.

-- Grice as an English Futilitarian.

Cavell, Stanley  ‘Must We Mean What We Say?’, reprinted in ed. Chappell, pp 75-112.

Chappell, V C., Ordinary Language, (Prentice-Hall).

Chisholm, Roderick, ‘Philosophers and Ordinary  Language’, reprinted in ed.Rorty, pp 175 – 182.

Devitt, Michael and Sterelny, Kim, Language and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Language, Second Edition, (Blackwell).

Dummett, Michael. Frege: Philosophy of Language, (Duckworth).

--- Wrigley to Grice: I will base my dissertation on Dummett's "Frege". Have you read it. Grice: "I haven't, and I hope I won't."

Feyerabend, Paul and Maxwell, Grover, eds., Mind, Matter and Method (University of Minnesota Press).

Flew, Antony, ‘Again the Paradigm’, in eds. Feyerabend and Maxwell,  pp 268 – 269.

Kripke, Saul, Naming and Necessity, (OUP).

Lazerowitz, Morris, The Structure of Metaphysics, (Routledge and Kegan Paul).

Malcolm, N. ‘Are Necessary Propositions Really Verbal?’, Mind, XLIX, pp 189-203.

--  ‘Moore and Ordinary Language’, reprinted in ed., Chappell, V C, pp 5-23.

— ‘Certainty and Empirical Statements’, Mind, LI, pp 18-46.

— ‘Philosophy and Ordinary Language’, Philosophical Review, LX, pp 329- 340.

Mates, Benson, ‘On the Verification of Ordinary Language’, in ed. Chappell, pp 64-74.

Quine, W V O, Word and Object, (MIT Press).

Rorty, Richard, ed., The Linguistic Turn, (The University of Chicago Press).

Russell, Bertrand, The Analysis of Matter, (George Allen and Unwin).

Ryle, Gilbert. ‘Systematically Misleading Expressions’, reprinted in ed. Rorty pp 85-100.

Soames, Scott Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century, Volume 2, The Age of Meaning, (Princeton University Press).

Tennessen, Herman. ‘Ordinary Language in Memoriam’, Inquiry, 8, pp 225- 248.

Wisdom, John. ‘Philosophical Perplexity’, Proc. Arist. Soc., XXXVII, pp71-88.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1953), Philosophical Investigations, trans. G E M Anscombe, (Blackwell).

No comments:

Post a Comment