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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Monday, March 14, 2016

The Facts of Griceianisms


Grice was never too serious about his use of 'fact'. He should have consulted a dictionary. That was his colleague J. L. Austin's advice.

"I don't give a hoot what the dictionary says," was Grice's response.

"And that's where you make your big mistake," Austin calmly reparteed.

In fact, 'fact' is a borrowing from the Latin, never returned. By 1530, 'fact' was used to mean "action, anything done," especially "evil deed," from Latin factum "an event, occurrence, deed, achievement," in Medieval Latin also "state, condition, circumstance," literally "thing done" (source also of Old French fait, Spanish hecho, Italian fatto), noun use of neuter of factus, past participle of facere "to do" (see factitious). Main modern sense of "thing known to be true" is from 1630s, from notion of "something that has actually occurred."

Compare feat, which is an earlier adoption of the same word via French. Facts "real state of things (as distinguished from a statement of belief)" is from 1630s. In fact "in reality" is from 1707. Facts of life "harsh realities" is from 1854; euphemistic sense of "human sexual functions" first recorded 1913. Alliterative pairing of facts and figures is from 1727.

Facts and Figures are the most stubborn Evidences; they neither yield to the most persuasive Eloquence, nor bend to the most imperious Authority. [Abel Boyer, "The Political State of Great Britain," 1727]

But the root is obscure.

'factum' is the past participle adjective from 'facere', "to make, do; perform; bring about; endure, suffer; behave; suit, be of service" (source of French faire, Spanish hacer).

But 'facere' is from a proto-Indo-European root *dhe-:

"to put, to set, to do".

The root has cognates.

In Sanskrit: dadhati "puts, places;"

In Avestan dadaiti "he puts;"

In Old Persian ada "he made;"

In Hittite dai- "to place;"

In Greek tithenai "to put, set, place;"

In Lithuanian deti "to put;"

In  Polish dziać się "to be happening;"

In Russian delat' "to do;"

In Old High German tuon, German tun, Old Saxon, Old English don "to do;"

In Old Frisian dua,

In Old Swedish duon, Gothic gadeths "a doing;"

In Old Norse dalidun "they did".

"Let me assume (and hope) that it is possible
to construct a theory which treats


as primarily a property of utterances. To avoid
confusion, I shall use, to name such
a property, not 'true' but


----- "Let me also assume that it will be a
consequence of such a theory that there will
be a class K of utterances (utterances of
affirmative subject-predicate sentences) such
that every member of K (1) DESIGNATES some
item and INDICATES some class, and (2) tis


if the item belongs to the class. Let me finally
assume that there can be a method of introducing
a form of expression ['true'] and linking
it with the notion of 'factually satisfaotry',
a consequence of which will be that to say
["'the S is P' is true", Smith is tactful,
Fido is shaggy] will be equivalent to saying
that any utterance of class K which
designates Smith and indicates the class of
['tactful'] people is FACTUALLY SATISFACTORY
(that is, any utterance which assigns Smith
to the class of [happy] people is factually
satisfactory". WoW: 56

(Grice has Smith as 'happy' in WoW:II but as tactful in WoW:VI, and I prefer having Smith as tactful in that this allows Grice to play with utterances in tropics other than the usual neustic one: "Smith, be tactful!"). And so on.

K. M. J. who teaches Linguistics at Cambridge has recently applied Grice's notion of 'acceptability' to an account of the semantics of some deontic modals. Which is good.

In "Aspects of Reason" then, Grice allows for 'satisfactoriness' to be other than 'alethic'. And not only that, but allows the philosopher to be concerned with the GENERAL patterns of rationality.

Grice played with this:

"Hare is our man in ethics".

Grice found that insulting. How can someone be "our man in ethics". Philosophy, like virtue, is _Entire_. Grice says. So, since he saw himself (or hisself, as I prefer) as a philosopher, he knew that there was a general paradigm that Hare failed to practice but he (Grice) didn't!

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