"Logic of Conversation as a Logic of Dialogue" is K. Jaakko J. Hintikka's
contribution to the Grice festschrift, in P.G.R.I.C.E., Philosophhical
Grounds of Rationality: Intentions, Categories, Ends.
celebratory essay, Hintikka -- whose affiliations to the Oxonian
philosophy to which Grice belonged were minimal -- compliments
Grice on a
body of work.
However, Hintikka singles out “Logic and Conversation” to
i.e. the second lecture at Harvard, where Hintikka was a
fellow. It should be
reminded that this was just ONE out of a series of
lectures that Grice gave
at Harvard, as he tried to combine his interests
(introduced as a coinage -- but cfr. Sidonius,
"implicatura", Lewis/Short, Latin
Dictionary) and meaning.
believes that the Gricean maxims "are not, and cannot be, the rock
a satisfactory analysis of the logic of conversation" (Hintikka
Hintikka is using 'rock bottom' figuratively. Figures are tricky.
i. You are the cream in my coffee.
is literally false as it involves a categorial mistake, unless we
that one's addressee -- cream -- has ears to understand what Utterer
Similarly, a maxim is not a rock bottom.
Kant knew this,
and by using "maxim", Grice is merely, and jocularly (such
was his obscure
sense of humour) referring to Kant (as does Joaquin Phoenix
in the recent
"Irrational man" when he discusses Kant's categorical
imperative and Kant's
universal prohibition on lying).
One of the reasons Hintikka thinks this
-- that a maxim is not a rock
bottom -- is his belief that, “when the time
comes to conceptualize the results
of […] discourse-theoretical
observations Grice often seems to retreat back
to formulations that pertain
to utterances taken one by one rather than to
the interplay of different
utterances in discourse".
Which is of course an
In the original OXFORD (*not* Harvard) lectures on
tortured his students ALWAYS with dialogues, between
whom Grice called "A" and
"B". Perhaps his most famous example
A: I'm out of petrol.
B: There's a garage round the corner.
(Implicature: Which is open and with
petrol to sell).
considering co-operativeness (or helpfulness) and you cannot have
a single utterance, unless you are God ("Let there be light!").
is interested in a "different, more flexible framework in which
dynamics of discourse are spelt out more explicitly."
The use of
'discourse' is vague. Grice prefers the more conversational
'conversational' and its corresponding noun, 'conversation'.
predicate logic is clearly not the logic of dialogue.
This point, as
Hintikka wants to explore, leads to a fundamental difference
propositions and the utterances of dialogue.
The new strategy for
understanding conversation Hintikka wants to employ is
Grice says that one of his ‘avowed aims is to see talking as a
case or variety of purposive, indeed rational,
If so, the bag of conceptual tools one can profitably use in
conversational "logic" (although Grice never used this phrase)
should be a
special case, or variety, of the conceptual tools one uses in
rationality of human behaviour in general. One such tool is
This had been tried before Hintikka, and at Harvard, too,
by D. K. Lewis in
his dissertation under Quine. Lewis was thinking that
conventional and that conventions invite a game-theoretical
Thus, Hintikka argues that the framework for studying dialogue
needs to be
shifted from formal logic to game theory.
is geared toward better understanding which appropriate
ought to use in given situations, or games.
The use of 'strategy' is
vague. Strictly, for Grice, there are no
strategies, since he knew Greek,
and 'strategy' comes from a Greek word meaning
'general' -- as in military.
And a military person KNOWS that his strategies
have to be SECRETIVE. But
Grice wants all ABOVE-BOARD. So we need another
term to categorise what is
going one when, to use S. Yablo's phrase,
Hintikka sketches a simple schema in which conversations can be viewed
He writes, “Utterer 1 and Utterer 2 make
There are four different kinds of moves for
-- The phrase 'conversational move' and 'conversational game'
'conversational rule' DO APPEAR in Grice's "Logic and Conversation", so
like Hintikka is being 100% original --
----- as in "We've been having some delightful weather this summer,
This implicating: "You've just committed a social gaffe: what about
changing the topic?")
(b) Interrogative moves.
----- Humpty Dumpty:
How old did you say you were?
----- Alice: Seven years and six
----- Humpty Dumpty: Wrong! You never said a word like it!
---- as in what Grice calls trivial
-------------------- A: You have two hands,
-------------------- B: Yes.
---------------------A: Well, if I had
THREE more hands, you would have 5
if I were permitted to double that, I would
have 10 hands.
---------------------A: Exactly: But If four of your hands were removed,
you would still remain with six hands.
and I would still have four more hands
than I have
(d) Definitory moves, as
-------------------A: All swans are black.
never ventured outside Australia, right?
Hintikka then explains how each
of these steps work.
First, a "player" must make an assertoric move --
as in "The weather has
been delightful this summer, no?" -- in which he or
she “puts forward a new
proposition (a new ‘thesis’)".
interrogative move is a questioning move, the answer (if one can be
to which "is then added to the list of the answerer’s theses".
deductive moves are pretty straightforward, it is comprised of "a
conclusion from the totality of his/her opponent’s theses," and previous
conclusions obtained by the same means.
Finally, definitory moves are
when one "introduces a new non-logical symbol
by and appropriate explicit
These four conversational moves in the conversational game
are used to
prove all the players’ theses, but according to Hintikka the
goals can be
Hintikka believes that the Gricean maxims can
be incorporated into this
model. Had he attended Grice's original
implicature lectures at Oxford, he
would have known Grice had already done
In referring to maxims enjoining 'strength' or 'informativeness'
conversational moves, Hintikka notes, while Grice remarks that one ought
violate these maxims for fear of confusing one's co-conversationalist,
Hintikka there "is nevertheless operative,… in ordinary discourse, a
pressure against extra information. Everything a player of my
games says can be used against him (or her) by the
Here, the player will want his discourse to be as weak as
Thus, requiring him to prove less by the rules of the game.
This is a fundamentally different reason to act in accordance with the
maxims enjoining strength or informativeness. However the "end result" is
The same result will be found regarding the maxims of
Recall that Grice uses
'quality/quantity/relation/mode' just to tease Kant!
Because one only
gets a payoff by proving the maximum amount of statements
in the dialogue,
one will only want to propose things that he or she may be
able to show to
Surprisingly, the maxims enjoining trustworthiness are also
Hintikka writes: "iif my opponent gives
true answers to my question, if the
opponent is fairly well-informed, and if
the effects of my own answers can
be discounted, then it is ceteris paribus
in my own best interest to put
forward true theses".
quantity, quality, and relevance, is not of interest to
He states that it "is different in kind from the first three" -- which
shows that Hintikka does NOT share Grice's obscure sense of humour. What is
point of poking fun of Kant if you are not going to accept the FOUR
'categories'. Note that in an outburst of humour, Grice calls these the
'conversational categories' -- in his critique of conversational reason, of
This should become apparent, as arguments to this affect will be
Relation, however, must be addressed and is actually
reworded to state that
it is a move within the rules to increase one’s
This Hintikka must explain.
He states: "For instead of
the relevance of the several utterances in a
dialogue I could collectively
speak of the coherence of the dialogue".
Hintikka refers to a Sherlock
Holmes story (now played by Ian McKellen) in
which Holmes solves a mystery
about a prize race horse by asking a
shepherd an apparently irrelevant
question about the recent status of his sheep.
However, this question,
as is often the case with the solutions to
intricate puzzles, was the
crucial link between a series of facts that ultimately
achieved the goal of
solving this mystery.
This shows that Hintikka read the novels of
Sherlock Holmes, as did Grice,
and Grice's mother.
From all this,
one can see that Hintikka has crafted a formal game that
This game does not however require a Cooperative
Principle, which was
another outburst of humour on Grice's part. In his
Oxford lectures on
implicature, he had spoken of desiderata of candour,
benevolence, clarity, and
self-interest, to account for the same phenomena!
He wasn't literally wedded to
calling his desiderata, principles, maxims or
stuff THIS or THAT!
For Hintikka, in fact, this becomes a competition
between the players of
Still, there are clearly some
problematic results of this account.
For example, intuitions of
conversation stray far from this schema.
Conversations are certainly
not games in which one must prove, or at least
hope to prove, all the
propositions that one puts forward.
Still, the idea of conversation as
a goal oriented game, with pay-offs and
costs, is certainly an idea which
has not been explored, and may have some
significance of Hintikka's Griceian exegesis, however, may be
alternative approach to the theory of conversation, which is based on
rationality theory in a way that explores Grice's ideas under a different
Oxonians prefer Grice's Oxonian light, though -- any night!