The Grice Club


The Grice Club

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Is Grice the greatest philosopher that ever lived?

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Monday, March 2, 2015

PROOF THEORY: unwinding Herbert Paul Grice and Georg Kreisel; or, the last train to London


During the war, both Grice and Kreisel worked for the British Admiralty. (That would be what Flanagan, in his memoirs, calls rhetorically to what some politicians, rhetorically, called, the 'phoney war', as it wasn't -- as opposed to the Great War).

Kreisel’s unwinding program was a reaction to Hilbert’s consistency program. It aimed to substitute clear mathematical results for what were said to be vague, misplaced, crude foundational goals.

But Kreisel was, perhaps, also a winding proof Emerson's dictum  that conversation without tropes is not permitted.

While teaching at the University of Reading, Kreisel would frequently take a train into London.

There was a particularly fast train that was timed just right for the shows in London, and he liked that.

One day Kreisel showed up at the station, at the usual time, and a  STOPPED train *was* there.

He got into it.

However, he ended up being accosted by the train conductor *just after* he had got on.

"The train doesn't stop here sir!", the train conductor's conversational  move was.

The train, which came from Bristol, had only STOPPED at Reading to  get water -- but the train conductor surely had more complicated jobs to hand to provide an explicature [or explication, as Carnap would prefer] to Kreisel.

"In that case I didn't get on here." was Kreisel's counter-move in the conversational game, as he later reported it to his friend Irish Murdoch.

Murdoch found the whole episode amusing and exploiting the ambiguity of  "doesn't stop". Was the train conductor not being truthful, or was he being merely sloppy?

With Emerson, one may take the train conductor as indulging in a  'trope':

i. The train from Bristol to London does not, as a rule stop at Reading. We are only getting water. This is not a stop stop.

However, that clear meaning is expressed by the appropraite trope, coming from a busy train conductor.

ii. The train doesn't stop here, sir!

Kreisel's response is similarly addressed to the trope, by involving a winding logical contradiction -- which coming from a famous philosophical logician is perhaps doubly irritating.

Had Kreisel's remark been addressed at what the train conductor  MEANT(rather than 'explicated') a more polite reply would have been by way of  an apology?

But then Iris would possibly have added, "We are not amused."

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