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, July 4, 2016

Newton Knight's Implicature


"The State of Jones" is a film Geary (or Gahry) might prefer (cfr. "Gentlemen prefer blondes, but marry brunettes"). It is set in what Americans call "The South," more specifically, as the title entails (but surely does not implicate), it is set in the State of Jones.

The protagonist is Matthew McConaughey. In one scene, they are eating dogs, and the implicatures go:

KNIGHT: Do you know what dog tastes like?

This may be a intertextual reference to "One million dollar baby" where we have

i. A: Puajj. That smells like bleach.
   B: It is bleach: bleach smells like bleach.

It may be argued that Knight's interlocutor, by responding "No", implicates:

ii. I do not know that dog tastes like dog.

But surely this analytic, as per Grice & Strawson (In Defense Of The Dogma of Analyticity -- alla Kant). Surely it cannot be synthetic a posteriori that dog tastes like dog. Therefore, In his first conversational move, "Do you know what dog tastes like?", Knight, not having anything better to do (this is Reconstruction), is TEASING, via implicature, his interlocutor. It might be argued that should INTERLOCUTOR uttered:

iii. Sure I do: dog tastes like dog.

INTERLOCUTOR would be flouting one of Grice's conversational maxims ("do not be more informative than is required"), since INTERLOCUTOR is meant to realise that Newton Knight already knows that

iv. Dog tastes like dog.

is analytic a priori -- even if perhaps neither of them ever read Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

What is the problematicity of (iv) or for that matter (i) Bleach smells like bleach: "like" of course. As Geary prefers,

v. A = A

Suppose A = A. Would we say that A is LIKE A? Sure. If A = A, A is like A. People tend to think that the use of 'like' involves a comparison ("Dog tastes like venison," "Bleach smells like Chanel 5"). But this is a cancellable implicature, not an entailment from the sense of "like".

Grice found that Witters never understood this. For Witters, a fork may look LIKE a flower, but a fork may NOT look like a fork. On the other hand, Grice's example

vi. A horse looks like a horse.

is perfectly true, if trivial or otiose by conversational standards. So Newton Knight was among other things, a pre-Griceian.

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