The Grice Club


The Grice Club

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Is Grice the greatest philosopher that ever lived?

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Saturday, February 27, 2016



There is reason, or  rationality; but  there is also irrationality, and third, there is the 'cunning of
reason'. M.  Hollis, quoting Popper, wrote a whole book about that, "The  Cunning of  Reason".

The idea is post-Kantian, Hegelian, and pre-Darwinian, but it is based on a
historical side of things, which may be rewritten as an evolutionary view
of  things.

For Hegel (and recall that for Grice the most important philosophers were 
Ariskant, and Platgel), the Geist is similar to the culture of people, and
is  CONSTANTLY RE-WORKING ITSELF [i.e. 'evolving,' in Popperian parlance] to
keep up  with the changes of society, while at the same time

working to produce those changes through what he (Hegel) called  the
"cunning of reason" (List der Vernunft).

Hegel's Geist is like Popper's objective knowledge, only different. There 
is an entry for 'cunning of reason' in Magee's book. This is not the Magee
that  McEvoy quotes, but the "New World" Magee, as I call him: G. A. Magee,
and the  book is "The Hegel Dictionary", published in the Old World, London
by the  Continuum International Publishing Group.

(Related to Hegel's cunning of reason is his focus on world history, rather
than regional or state history. Thinkers such as Herder and Fichte had 
written on the concept and importance of world history and nationalism.
Hegel's  philosophy continues this trend, while breaking away from an emphasis on 
nationalism and striving rather to grasp the full sweep of human cultural
and  intellectual history as a manifestation of spirit.

How the cunning of reason relates to irrationality and Cosmides and Wason 
-- next.

Hegel is ironically interestingly clear about this.

Hegel writes:

"The special interest of passion is thus inseparable from the active 
development of a general principle: for it is from the special and determinate 
and from its negation, that the Universal results. Particularity contends
with  its like, and some loss is involved in the issue. It is not the general
idea  that is implicated in opposition and combat, and that is exposed to
danger. It  remains in the background, untouched and uninjured."
------- "This may be called the cunning of reason,"
-------— that it sets the passions to work for itself, while that which 
develops its existence through such impulsion pays the penalty and suffers
loss.  For it isphenomenal being that is so treated, and of this, part is of no
value,  part is positive and real. The particular is for the most part of
too trifling  value as compared with the general: individuals are sacrificed
and abandoned.  The Idea pays the penalty of determinate existence and of
corruptibility, not  from itself, but from the passions of individuals."

There was a time when at Oxford, for a philosopher, to be Hegelian was to 
be 'in' -- 'the thing to be': Bradley, Bosanquet, were Hegelians and proud
of  it. Russell, who was Cantabrigian, even had this influence. When Grice
arrived  at Oxford, these waves of Hegelianism had subsided, and a few year
laters, after  his student Strawson started to lecture on Kant ("The bounds of
sense"), many  thought the 'in' thing to be was "Kantian". Of course Hegel
is possibly  parodying Kant's critique of pure reason when he calls his
thing the 'cunning of  reason'. In other words, you cannot understand Hegel
without understanding Kant,  and you cannot understand Kant without
understanding Aristotle, and you cannot  understand Aristotle without understanding
Thales. (It is a good thing that  Thales is the first philosopher, otherwise we
couldn't understand anything, as  per Peano, inductive infinite regress).

But perhaps we still don't understand Cosmides, and as per McEvoy, perhaps 
she doesn't understand Darwin (as Popper does).



ps. The exercise of "You cannot understand Mr. B unless you understand Mr. 
A" I call the exercise of 
"You-cannot-understand-Mr-B-unless-you-understand-Mr.B". It may do to apply it  to Grice and Popper, and Geary and Elvis
Presley (and you can change  'understand' for 'feel'). It applies to poets,
too! -- and "all famous authors  in swarms" (such as "Somerset and all the
Maughams") to quote from Noel  Coward.

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