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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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Did Grice Have An Affair With Meinong?


R. B. Jones has left a lovely comment under another thread. But what's the good of a thread if you cannot unthread it?

For Jones writes:

"OK, the commentary is a long time coming! But I have been provoked again, this time into looking closer into Logical Atomism than I have previously, with particular regard to its relation with Grice's philosophy. The atomist/corpuscularist angle I couldn't make much sense of, and the methodological side of Logical Atomism seems to me too far removed from Grice's methods to make a good story."

This reminds me delightfully of Margaret Atwood. She is always thinking of what makes a 'good story'. In that respect, we can call Atwood a Griceian -- or Grice an Attwoodian, you'd never know.

Jones goes on:

"But I think there may be an interesting story on the ontological matters, particularly, though not exclusively, in relation to Grice's views as presented in his Vacuous Names, which one might think closer to Russell's brief Meinongian phase than the ontology of logical atomism."

Which provoked the question in the title. Grice was always interested in affairs, and having or not having them, and their implicata. One of his examples of conversational implicature in Harvard in 1967 was:

A: Smith doesn't seem to be having any affair as per today, as it oddly happens.
B: Well, for one, I SHALL say he is travelling all too often to Lower Manhattan these days.

M. Dascal analysed this and thinks the implicatum is that he may be 'just seeing prostitutes' and not necessarily having an affair (but I would use affair broadly, as M. Puig does in "Buenos Aires affair" to include these, too -- especially in Lower Manhattan -- Upper Lower, of course).

For the Griceian ignoramus, Jones is, inter alia, referring to his own brilliant study of "Vacuous Names". He got rid of Grice's sub-indexing device ("Grice's loss," Jones implicates). But Jones does consider the topic of what Grice calls a "Meinongian jungle". This makes Meinong sound like what what Nicholas Hazlewood would call a 'savage' (vide his "Savage! The life and times of Jimmy Button") and I'm not sure why Grice uses 'jungle'.

Perhaps Meinong did, and in German, too!

Grice thinks that

i. Pegasus is1.

is good English.

2. Pegasus exists-1.

is also good english.

3. Pegasus-2 flies-1.

is good and scholarly English, for anyone aware of Graeco-Roman mythology (Quine dismissed mythology as a dogma of rationalism?)

But Meinong also considers:

4. A square triangle-1 exists-2.

as something his ignorant nephew would say. I.e. in the world of Meinong's nephew, there is room for a set which contains all triangles which are square (This was BEFORE Meinong's nephew underwent psychological treatment under Freud).

Jones goes on:


which is not just "any" way, but the way that makes the next commentary relevant -- recall Grice, "Be relevant". (It TOTALLY -- as Brittney Spears would say) differs from "BY the way" which has the opposite effect, literally).

Jones goes on:

"I'm working my way through this, re-reading Urmson's book "philosophical analysis", failing again to make sense of Hylton,"

For the ignoramus, this is NOT Paris Hilton -- although both surnames are pronounced similarly.

Urmson's essay is a gem and I love his example:

5. Smith went to bed and took off his trousers.

6. Smith took off his trousers and went to bed.

Grice will later (oh so much later -- in William James Lecture No. 3, 1967) refer to this example as an example of a conversational implicature triggered by the flouting of the maxim, 'be orderly' -- under Kantian MODUS), for surely we can cancel it:

7. Smith took off his trousers and went to bed; of course, I don't mean to imply that he proceeded in this order.

Since Grice was playing with implicature since his "Causal Theory" (1961) if not before, we should not that a cancellation may have an otiose effect on one's addressee -- 'but still it IS a cancellation'. More specifically:


A: Smith took off his trousers and went to bed; of course I don't mean to imply that he proceeded in this order, no mater what YOU may end up thinking!

B: Well, what did he do that?

A: Are you cross-examining me?


Urmson deals with 'and' because he is considering corpuscularianism and wants 'and' to be truth-functional, and thus commutative -- as does Grice!

Jones goes on:

"and discovering belatedly Michael Beaney's SEP article tracing the history of philosophical analysis."

Beaney is a genius, although Grice would see him as too much of a Fregeian. Once Michael Wrigley, who hails from Beaney's country, went to Berkeley. He had decided (fresh from Oxford) to have his PhD -- as they call them at Berkeley) under Grice.

WRIGLEY: I intend to write my dissertation on Frege.
WRIGLEY: More precisely, I intend to criticise Dummett's "Frege". I hope you read THAT.
Grice: I have NOT -- and more, I hope I shall NOT.

But Beaney is different, because he makes Frege entertaining. L. Horn was so fascinated by Frege that he calls F-implicatures those CONVENTIONAL implicatures (like 'but', etc.) that only add a shade of colouring (or "Farbung") to one's utterance, and S. Neale made a career out of this. I especially treasure Neale's contribution on this at the LOVELY uni of Urbino!

("uni" is perhaps hyperbolic and non-U, as Nancy Mitford would say -- Urbino just does!)

Jones goes on:

"I wish I could say that this will end in a nice contribution for the Grice Club, but my track record is so bad that the best I can say is that that's the direction I am heading in right now."

Your record is NOT bad!

And it's always GOOD to have a direction, at least so the Cheshire Cat thought (Jones hails not far from Cheshire -- Midlands country -- so he knows.

ALICE: Cheshire Puss, darling, could you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

CHESHIRE PUSS: That depends, you know, a GOOD deal on where you want to get to.

ALICE: I don't much care where.

CHESHIRE PUSS: Then it doesn't matter which way you go.

ALICE: --so long as I get somewhere.

CHESHIRE PUSS: Oh, you're sure to do that if you only walk long enough.

"Alice felt that this could not be denied," surely because, with Urmson, she would have found the Cheshire puss's implicature as tautologous (and logical analytic) in a truth-functional, truth-conditional way.

Dodgson who wrote that, taught logic at Wrigley's college, Christ Church, and note that strictly, "even if you do NOT walk long enough", you _still_ get to get_ somewhere.



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