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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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Herbert Paul Grice and Morton Gabriel Weisberger: The Implicatures


Tarski once said, trying to be intelligent,

i. Snow is white.

-- He said it in Polish, but Popper soon translated to his (i.e. Popper's) vernacular, "weiss". "It sounds more idiotic in Polish," Tarski admitted.

Now, how would you call a white-mountaineer: Morton Gabriel White, for short.

Geary once referred to the triad of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, as "a triad if dead white men."

I would add, alas, Morton White.

Morton White, a philosopher and historian of ideas whose innovative theory of “holistic pragmatism” showed the way toward a more socially engaged, interdisciplinary role for philosophy, died in Skillman, N.J.

His death was announced by the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, not far from Skillman, and where White taught.

OTOH Grice's death was announced by a nurse.

White was best known to generations of philosophers as the editor of two standard compilations.

The first was “The Age of Analysis," a tirade against Popper and an anthology of writings from key 20th-century philosophers, for which he supplied an introduction and commentary.

The second, co-edited with his wife Lucia, is “The Intellectual Versus the City: From Thomas Jefferson to Frank Lloyd Wright"

Grice was more familiar with exurbia tan "city" or 'town' as he preferred. His favourite exurbia being Darien on Long Island Sound.

White & White survey the conflicted attitudes about the merits of rural and urban life.

As a philosopher, White (not to be confused with Black, a Russian philosopher) was identified with holistic pragmatism, an effort to rescue philosophy from what he (White, not Black) saw as the narrow preoccupations of the dominant analytic movement, with its parsings of statements and the constituent parts of complex notions.

"There are many signs that the sleeping giant of philosophy is arousing itself out of its mathematical slumbers,” he wrote.

Oddly, not far from Darien there is a national landmark locally known as the valley of the Sleeping Giant (his name is Wilfrid), seat of a prestigious polo club.

Building on the work of Willard Van Orman Quine (one of Grice's two intellectual mentors, the other was Chomskyh) and Nelson Goodman, White conceives of pragmatic analysis as an all-embracing venture incorporating ethics, politics and the social sciences.

"In my view, holistic pragmatism is a theory that may be applied to all disciplines that seek truth,” he states.

White explored his ideas in strictly philosophical works like “Toward Reunion in Philosophy” and in sweeping intellectual histories, including "Social Thought in America: The Revolt Against Formalism,"study of John Dewey (Grice was a Dewey lecturer), Oliver Wendell Holmes (not to be confused with Sherlock, "who possibly never existed" annotates Geary), and Thorstein Veblen ("if you heard of him," Geary annotates, and disimplicates, "and even if you haven't"), and "Science and Sentiment in America: Philosophical Thought From Jonathan Edwards to John Dewey."

Stanley Katz, of Princeton, metaphorically dubbed White "philosophy’s ambassador."

Katz did not implicate to what.

White born Morton Gabriel Weisberger in Manhattan to Robert Weisberger and the former Esther Levine and grew up on the Lower East Side, where his family owned a shoe store, "that sold good shoes," Geary adds.

Morton excelled in school, first at P.S. 114 and later at Seward Park (he graduated at 15), but felt little in the way of intellectual stirrings.

"I was a child of the streets and the shoe store,” he wrote in his memoir, "A Philosopher’s Story,."

“I was a lonely, unreligious child who knew little about what is sometimes called the spiritual life, little about philosophical essays, and much about films, sports, restaurants, prizefighters, baseball players and politics.”

The shoe store went bankrupt during the Depression, and he enrolled in City College, which was tuition-free.

Grice starts the conceptual analysis of "freedom" with expressions like 'sugar-free' and 'tuition-free' (unknown, both, in his time at Oxford: "We never said we had our tea sugar-free.")

White absorbed radical politics and initially set his sights on becoming a lawyer, or attorney, alla H. L. A. Hart and others.

White (not Hart) drifted gradually toward philosophy after taking an introductory survey course and plunging into the study of logic, alla Grice.

"I could solve the problems of the world while I had fun and learned how to earn a living."

After graduating with a BA in social science, White abandoned (unlike Hart) the idea of studying law.

Columbia lent White the money to enroll in its graduate school, where he wrote a thesis on the pragmatist and logician C. S. Peirce and earned MA.

At this time Grice was lecturing on Peirce at Oxford.

For his doctorate, whuch Grice never earned (it's deemed "too clever," with the attending disimplicature, to earn one), but White did, wrote about Dewey’s early thought, specifically his theory that ideas are not a mirror of reality but a plan of action.

Yes, a plan of Dewey's action.

The dissertation was published as “The Origins of Dewey’s Instrumentalism.

"The end of it I must leave for a longer day."

Geary annotates: aren't all days 24 hours long?

White married Lucia Perry.

Not to be confused with Perry (editor of Personal identity, which reprints Grice's Classic).

White's second wife is Helen Starobin.

White is survived by his sons, Nicholas and Stephen; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

While teaching at Pennsylvania, White became friends with Goodman, whose theories on hypotheses and inductive reasoning influenced him decisively.

A second, even more powerful influence was Quine, whom he met after joining Harvard’s philosophy department, where Grice gave the bi-annual William James Philosophical Lectures.

Quine proposed a holistic approach to understanding how human beings test beliefs against experience — not one by one, but as an interconnected system of beliefs.

Quine had applied this insight to natural sciences and logic, but White extended it to religion, history, art and morality.

Whether he succeeded (+> or not) is for MvEvoy to say (or implicate or show and tell as he'd prefer)

White addressed these problems in a seminal essay published in “The Analytic and the Synthetic: An Untenable Dualism,” citing Grice, and at greater length in “Toward Reunion in Philosophy,” which he dedicated to Goodman and Quine.

White later refined his theories in “Religion, Politics and the Higher Learning”, “Foundations of Historical Knowledge”, “What Is and What Ought to Be Done: An Essay on Ethics and Epistemology” and “A Philosophy of Culture: The Scope of Holistic Pragmatism”.

He also edited “Paths of American Thought” with Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., and “Documents in the History of American Philosophy”.

Grice is cited even if he's English. Foucault is not.

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