The Grice Club


The Grice Club

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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 Gabriel Weisberger (better known, perhaps, as Morton White) is a philosopher and historian of ideas, whose innovative theory of "holistic pragmatism,"as her rather pretentiously, but with good will, called it, showed the way toward a more socially engaged, interdisciplinary role for philosophy, well, he died in Skillman, N.J.

White's death was announced by The Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, not far from Skillman, and where White taught (Princeton, not Skillman -- the toponymy of "Skillman" is very interesting, as is "Princetown"'s).

OTOH Grice's death was announced by a nurse -- as was, incidentally, his birth, back in affluent Halborne, Warwickshire.

White (or Weisberger, if you mustn't) was best known to generations of philosophers as the editor of two standard compilations.

The first is, or should be, a favourite with R. B. Jones, of Carnap's Corner. It is "The Age of Analysis" (implicature: "does analysis age?") a tirade against Popper and an anthology of writings from key 20th-century philosophers, including Grice, for which Weisberger (or White, if you must) supplied an introduction and witty commentary.

The second, co-edited with his wife Lucia, is “The Intellectual Versus the City: From Thomas Jefferson to Frank Lloyd Wright" -- the architect (Wright, not Jefferson).

To emphasise the contrasts, Grice was more familiar with exurbia tan "city" or 'town' as he preferred. His favourite exurbia being Darien on Long Island Sound, even if he was straight from an affluent exurbia of "Brum" (He would never refer to "Birmingham" as Brum, but _I_ would, just to disimplicate).

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

Is this philosophical?

It is for Morton; it ain't for Lucia, who saw herself (as she was -- such is the implicature of 'saw') as a 'sociologist'.

As a philosopher, M. White (not to be confused with M. Black, a Russian philosopher) was identified with "holistic pragmatism", then, an effort, as it were, to rescue philosophy from what he (White, not Black) "saw as" the narrow preoccupations of the dominant analytic movement (he meant Grice, who was the propagandist of "linguistic botany", "Oxford philosophy at its worst!" -- "Futilitarian!" -- with its parsings of statements and the constituent parts of complex notions (such as Grice's rewrite of Peirce's sign, symbol, and index into "mean" and m-intentions.

Weisberger writes:

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

What does he mean?

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 (or Weisberger) conceives of "pragmatic analysis" (NOT the type Grice or Carnap are concerned with -- vide "The city of eternal truth") as an all-embracing venture incorporating ethics, politics and the social sciences.

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

The serious thing is that he meant ("Must we mean what we say?" "Well, at least I say what I mean -- same thing" -- "Not the same thing a bit!").

White (or Weisberger) 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," a 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. But for that matter, he did not disimplicate it either. For Boethius, in "The consolation of philosophy," philosophy is the hand maid of theology. So should Philosophy NEED an ambassador?

Grice would wonder if philosophy (viewed as a lady) can be her own ambassador. But Katz would perhaps not.

White was born Morton Gabriel Weisberger "somewhere in Manhattan," as Grice would put it (cfr. his discussion of "We'll be staying somewhere in the South of France") to Robert Weisberger and the Esther Levine (relation to the former Met conductor) and grew up on the Lower (as opposed to posh Upper) East Side, where his family owned a shoe store, "that sold good shoes," Geary adds.

Morton excelled in school, first at P.S. 114 -- in Manhattan, schools are numbered -- when they are public. -- Grice attended a public school, but in England, public means private and private means public. Grice attended Clifton, and fresh from Oxford he taught for one term only at a public, I mean private, school, in (of all places) Lancashire -- Rossall -- and later at Seward Park (Weisberger graduated at fifteen years old -- them was the days), but felt little in the way of intellectual stirrings.

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

By story he means what Rowlings means by 'story' when she calls the adventures of Harry Potter a 'story' or 'two'.

Weisberger expands:

"I was a lonely, unreligious child who knew little about what is sometimes called the spiritual life," to echo Socrates, "little about philosophical essays, and much about films, sports, restaurants, prize-fighters, baseball players and politics."

By which Weisberger means Lower East Side politics -- the dangerous one! ("The Bowery!")

The shoe store went bankrupt during the Depression, alas -- not Weisberger's fault, really -- then Grice said that his father was a "disaster as a businessman, but a fine violin player"), 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 (or Weisberger) absorbed RADICAL politics and initially set his sights on becoming a lawyer, or attorney, alla H. L. A. Hart and others.

White (not Hart) however drifted gradually toward philosophy (of all things) after taking an introductory survey course and plunging into the study of logic, alla Grice. These were the years when Strawson would publish his "Introduction to Logical Theory" crediting his best tutor ever, "Mr. H. P. Grice".

Logic was in.

In both worlds, the old (Grice's -- Oxford) and the new (Weisberger's, City College).

Weisberger wrote:

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

FUN is a central concept in Weisberg and Grice. For Grice, philosophy must be primarily concerted 'fun' -- "as when I joined my father Herbert and my brother Derek to play music" (Herbert played the violin, H. P. the piano, and Derek the cello).

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

Can one study law? Cfr. Crisp, "I'm a practicing homosexual". "Are you?" his mother retorted. "I never knew you had to practice to be one, darling! It comes to you so naturally". I love Crisp's mum!

Columbia lent White (or Weisberger) the money (read: dollars) to enroll in its graduate school, where he wrote a thesis on the pragmatist and logician C. S. Peirce and earned an MA.

At this time Grice was lecturing on Peirce at Oxford.

For his doctorate, which Grice never earned (it's deemed "too clever," with the attending disimplicature, to earn one), but White or Weisberger 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 implicature is different from Dewey's 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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