The Grice Club


The Grice Club

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

To mock a mockingbird: Herbert Paul Grice and Raymond Merrill Smullyan


To mock a mockingbird: Herbert Paul Grice and Raymond Merrill Smullyan. Grice used to say that he left Oxford for the 'New World,' as he called it (he meant, of course, the Continent named after the Old-World sailor Amerigo Vespucci -- the 'c' is euphonic) because there were not that many logicians in Oxford at the time! This is odd, especially coming from Grice, seeing that Grice was at Oxford and, more importantly, that indeed P. F. Strawson, in his wrong masterpiece (I mean, it _is_ a masterpiece of an essay, if anti-Griceian in nature -- "Introduction to Logical Theory," often misquoted as "An introduction to logical theory" -- Sir Peter hated indefinites) credits in the "Acknowledgments" his (Sir Peter's, that is) debt to "Mr. H. P. Grice, from whom I have never ceased to learn about logic" since he (Grice) was his (Strawson's) tutor at St. John's -- even if he (Sir Peter) got a second at P. P. E. (Grice got a first at Lit. Hum. -- but nobody compares to Grice, do they?). So Grice was understandably happy when  he arrived in the New World to find Raymond Merrill Smullyan! (This is evident in Grice's own "Acknowledgment" section to one of the first essays he wrote in the new world, "Vacuous Names" -- By 'vacuous names', Grice means "Marmaduke Bloggs," and others -- but the System he develops is SO complex that he needs the assistance of a few logicians, including Smullyan).

In what follows I use what grammarians call the 'historical present' -- be grateful I won't use the future! They Keywords remain, of course: Herbert Paul Grice and Raymond Merrill Smullyan.  Smullyan is a Puzzle-Creating Logician, so-called. Smullyan teaches philosophy at Lehman in the Bronx, which was named after Lehman ("Lehman," not the Bronx -- The Bronx was named after the Bronx -- as Kripke would put it).  There is a nice photograph of him by Eddie (Edward) Hausner.  Smullyan's merry, agile mind, is is said, "led" him to be a philosopher, a musician, a magician, a mathematician and, most cunningly, a puzzle-creating philosophical logician. No, there is no repetition, or flout of a Griceian maxim ("do not be over-informative"), by saying Smullyan was a philosopher *and* a philosophical logician -- as every Griceian should know -- for one can be neither! He (Smullyan, not Grice) lives in Hudson, N.Y. -- which is a nice place to live. It's not to be confused with the river. Incidentally, Hudson was named after Hudson (literally, the son of "Hud", whoever he was -- no, not a sailor).

Smullyan is, of course, a serious philosopher, with the publications and the doctorate to prove it -- and even to falsify it, as Popper would prefer. "Serious," of course, should incidentally *not* be taken, paradoxically, too seriouslys, seeing that, for Grice, the first requirement of philosophy is that it should be fun ("Prejudices and Predilections"): "to laugh at philosophy is not to laugh WITH other philosophers," Grice adds for effect. But Smullyan's greatest legacy, allegedly, is the, shall we say, devilishly clever logic puzzles that he devises, presenting them in numerous essays or just in casual conversation, alla Grice! And to strangers, too!
Smullyan says the first puzzle was presented to him on Fool's Day by his older brother (of all people) (Smullyan had the 'flu, and the puzzle is too complicated in terms of implicature, so alla Witters I shall pass over it in silence). 

Admittedly, sometimes Smullyan's puzzles are, as Yogi Berra's, one-offs. Othertimes, Smullyan's puzzles are embedded in longer narratives to explain philosophico-logical concepts, such as, to name a few, (a) Boolean logic, as Smullyan does in "The Magic Garden of George B and Other Logic Puzzles," or (b) retrograde analysis, as Smullyan explores in the "The Chess Mysteries of the Arabian Knights." (Vide below for a partial list of Smullyan's -- not Grice's -- publications). Smullyan was also a character -- if not of a Shakespeareian play. With his long hair and beard (Grice didn't have one) Smullyan resembles Ian McKellen’s wizard, Gandalf, from the “Lord of the Rings” film series, if you've seen it (and even if you haven't). 

Smullyan is lanky, hates exercise (unlike Grice, whose obituary in The [London] Times reads, "Professional philosopher and amateur cricketer" -- Grice was also football captain at Corpus Christi) and loves steak and eggs. This invites an implicature:

i. Smullyan loves steak.
ii. Smullyan loves eggs.
iii. Smullyan loves steak and eggs.

In "Logical form and implicature", R. M. Harnish wonders if (iii) ENTAILS (as Moore would have it) (i) or (ii). Harnish, as a good Griceian, accepts it does. "If we tend to think that it does not --" and that, say, Smullyan only loves steaks when coming with eggs -- this is due to a Griceian implicature to the effect that one should be as informative as required -- by the Cooperative Principle of conversation. Smullyan studied Eastern religion. Grice didn't. This caused a retort from the Dutch philosopher and orientalist J. L. Staal to Grice: "You should." Note that Smullyan studied Eastern religion, not philosophy. Indeed, he considers himself a taoist. 
(Grice accepted that the longitudinal and latitudinal unities of philosophy, if not religion, possibly held consistencies in both the West and the East -- "Reply to Richards"). But I disgress. Smullyan tells corny jokes and performs close-up magic to anyone near him.  Like Grice, Smullyan plays the piano with passion and talent (This is recorded in a film named, "This film needs no title" -- which is not nominated for best documentary, as it ain't -- but it's worth seeing. Musically, Grice's father, rather, played the violin, and his younger brother Derek played the cello -- they went by "The Grices"). A career in music, in Smullyan's case, had been derailed by tendinitis. A career in music for Grice was not, but pursued briefly while at Clifton -- where he would play Ravel's Pavane on graduation day. And he kept a piano all his life, as Smullyan did. And Smullyan, like Berra, if not Grice, is fond of his philosophical, if silly, sayings, such as, 

iv. Why should I worry about dying? 
v. It’s not going to happen in my lifetime!

Grice would distinguish between (iv) and (v) as utterances and (iv) and (v) as a whole utterance. Most of Smullyan's utterances are best seen as conjunctions of utterance-parts -- vide Grice, "Utterer's Meaning, Sentence Meaning, Word Meaning", in Searle, "The philosophy of language," Readings in Philosophy, ed. by G. J. Warnock. This -- (iv) and (v) was to prove Witters wrong. Note that, strictly, this contrasts with:

vi. Why should I worry about death?

Death and dying ain't the same thing, you know. And Smullyan knows it. Melvin Fitting, of New York, a philosopher, recalls Smullyan’s demeanour as his thesis advisor at Yeshiva, while Fitting was pursuing his doctorate. “Smullyan would be smiling in anticipation of the many truly beautiful things he was going to show you,” Fitting fittingly says. For Smullyan sees beauty in the puzzles that he creates, seemingly non-stop, and views them as tools to spread the gospel of philosophical logic, as Grice did! 
In fact, Grice is having Smullyan in mind when Grice refers, at the beginning of his second William James lecture on logic and conversation, that it is a 'commonplace' in philosophical logic that there is a divergence between the formal devices (~, /\, V, ); (Ax); (Ex), and ix) and their vernacular counterparts ("not", "and", "or", "if", "all", "some (at least one)", and "the"). Vide Smullyan on this Griceian point in "First-order logic". For Grice, if not Smullyan, this commonsense rests on a BIG mistake, due to ignoring the very existence of conversational implicature!

In his essay, "The Lady or the Tiger? And Other Logic Puzzles,” Smullyan writes, slightly out of the blue, about the greater popularity that Euclid’s "Elements" would have achieved had the Greek mathematician framed it as a puzzle book -- "and in English, rather than Greek." Smullyan writes: 

vii. Problem:
viii. Given a triangle with two equal sides, are two of the angles necessarily equal?
ix. Why, or why not?

The "Why not?" Smullyan takes straight from Humpty Dumpty. Smullyan's puzzles are so much a part of Smullyan's identity that he poses one on his first date with his future wife, Blanche de Grab, a Belgian lady. What Smullyan poses to de Grab is, strictly, a Goedelian statement that, in the way Smullyan frames it, can only result in a Goedelian kiss from her (to him -- Smullyan, not Goedel). Reminiscing about it, Smullyan notes:

x. Pretty sneaky way of winning a kiss, right?

The "right" is rhetorical, in Griceian terms. Jason Rosenhouse, of James Madison, who helped edit a celebration of Smullyan (written by Smullyan -- Rosenhouse said: "I could not possibly have written the celebration on my own") says the clarity of Smullyan's puzzles can unveil the beauty of philosophical logic to those philosophers who, not having met Grice -- or Smullyan for that matter, could not previously grasp it. Rosenhouse goes simile-oriented:  "It is like fooling a kid into eating his vegetables," -- 'kid' meaning, as Rosenhouse utters it, 'child,' rather than the non-human animal who needs no encouragement to eat its veggies. Rosenhouse adds:  "Smullyan takes something like Gödel’s incompleteness theorems and uses a string of logic puzzles as a device for presenting them." Goedel would be amused! Martin Gardner, himself a renowned math puzzler, on the other hand, compares Smullyan to the Oxford logician -- in fact Christ Church logician -- Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who also was an author better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll (indeed "Charles Lutwidge" Latinised and inverted!). Smullyan pays tribute to Dodgson in his essay "Alice in Puzzle-Land: A Carrollian Tale for Children Under Eighty" and "More Alice in Puzzle-Land" (with an intro by Martin Gardner, author of the celebrated, "Annotated Alice"). In one chapter, Smullyan writes, Alice thinks (to herself) about how confusing, yet remarkably logical, Humpty Dumpty is. “I wonder,” Alice says, “how Humpty Dumpty manages to be both confusing and logical?”
There was no answer. There is, it would seem, some confusing logic in the zig-zagging path of Smullyan’s life.

Raymond Merrill Smullyan was born in Far Rockaway, Queens, which is a nice place to be born in, if you ask me: it is far away, and rocky (hence the name). "Queens" is incidentally named after a queen. Smullyan's father, Isidore, is a businessman.
His mother, Rosina Freedman, is a homemaker -- not an architect, but you know what I mean. Architects can only be house-makers, never home ones! (Interior decorators, spouses, and cats, make homes.) Smullyan's education is peripatetic and eclectic. Smullyan attends both Pacific and Reed in Oregon -- a stretch from Queens, if you axes me. Then, Smullyan studies mathematics and philosophical logic on his own.  (Reed was named after Reed).  Smullyan hears of Grice (the logician of the Oxford school of ordinary language philosophy, as it was never properly called). Smullyan also learns magic:

xi. Because I am a magician, people often ask me whether I have ever sawn yet a woman in half. 
xii. I reply:
xiii. Oh yes, I've sawn over seventy women in HALF of my lifetime. 
xiv. Now I'm the learning the second half of the trick.

Smullyan creates chess puzzles (alla Sherlock Holmes, as Martin Gardnes notes) that are more concerned about moves that have been made than the ones that should be made, if you get Smullyan's drift. Oddly, Smullyan shared this passion for paradoxes (vide Grice's paradox in "William James Lecture, V) and chess with Grice: Grice, for one, would play chess on the phone for HOURS with George Myro! Actually, Smullyan, unlike Grice, puts together a magic act, and performs under the stage name "Five-Ace Merrill" ("Smullyan" was perhaps too ethnic?) at night-clubs like infamous "The Pump Room" in Chicago, where he works for tips -- if you find him -- I mean, if he hasn't, Houdini-liked, disappeared! Smullyan goes on to get his B. A. in philosophical mathematical logic from Chicago and, as if this were not enough, a Ph.D. also on philosophical logic from Princeton (strictly, "Prince's town"). (Chicago is Native American). Smullyan teaches at Princeton, Yeshiva, Lehman, and Indiana -- if you must list all his affiliations. He also teaches at Hudson where he lives. Smullyan's philosophy of teaching is, again, appropriately a little puzzling.  "My policy," Smullyan explains to the President at Princeton, "is to teach my student as much as possible and to require from them as little as possible." 
The quotation is transmitted in Donald Albers and Gerald Alexanderson, in their “Mathematical People: Profiles and Interviews." But Smullyan adds that, ironically, the impact of his only apparent lenience is his students work harder in his course than in any other ever offered at Princeton (Smullyan seems to be implicating that that Princeton is like Oxford: "Only the poor learn at Oxford," Matthew Arnold says -- Oxford Book of Quotations). Smullyan has a stepson, John Kotik. Smullyan also has six step-grandchildren, and, if you believe it (even if you don't), sixteen step-great-grandchildren. Smullyan's wife Blanche de Grab is also a pianist (if not a first-order predicate logician) and a music educator. Blanche Smullyan's is Smullyan's second spouse. Smullyan's first marriage ended in divorce -- or rather, paradoxically, his divorce started with his first marriage. Kotik recalls being with his wife at the Smullyans’ lovely cottage in Elka Park (named after Elka, and Park), N.Y., and listening to a radio report about the high salaries of some athletes. Then Kotik's mother, Blanche de Grab, says, slightly out of the blue:

xv. These salaries are excessive!

Smullyan confirms (xv):

xvi. To be paid so much is, even, unfair!

(He is quoting on Rawls, "On fairness and unfairness").

Kotik goes on: "I said:

xvii. Raymond, is not it true that you are more intelligent than most people?

xviii. Yes.

Smullyan says. "So I say," Kotik goes on:

xix. I think *that* is ALSO unfair.

And adds:

xx. We should take out part of your BRAIN, Smullyan, and distribute it to people who can use it.

“I was trying to implicate something alla Grice, you know." Kotik goes on: “Smullyan remains silent for a minute or so, and finally Smullyan says:"

xxi. I can not give you any reason, but I would not do it.

"I think he disimplicated my implicature."

By "would not do it", Smullyan of course explicates (rather than 'implicates') that he would NOT distribute his brain to people who can use it. Since surely _he_ is using it (the implicature being).  Puzzles are an essential part of Smullyan’s patois: a philosophical logician's Humpty-Dumptyian (if not Tweedledee-and-Tweedledumian) way of greeting and testing people  When Smullyan meets his editor, Rochelle Kronzek, he asks her, typically, to solve some puzzles. "This intimidated me at first," Kronzek confesses, "but I came up with creative answers." "Luckily." Kronzek, the executive editor of "World Scientific Publishing," adds: "And more than once Smullyan smiles because he seems to be liking the way I am thinking." "Funny, right?". "The bottom line is that Smullyan gets a lot of joy out of seeing how other people think." (To which Humpty Dumpty would retort that you need very sharp eyes to _see_ this). 
Some Smullyan quotes, into the bargain: When asked why he does not believe in astrology, Smullyan responds:

xxii. I am a Gemini and Geminis never believe in astrology.

This is an enthymeme, almost. But when formalised, it becomes a Goedelian one. Smullyan also states:

xxiii. Some people are always critical of vague statements. 
xxiv. I tend rather to be critical of precise statements.
xxv. Precise statements are the only ones which can correctly be labelled 'wrong'.

And he is right! A recurring puzzle in Smullyan is an ISLAND where each habitant is either a liar or a truthteller. 

xxvi. You come across two inhabitants of the island."
xxvii. Let's call them A and B.

A says:

xxviii. We are both telling the truth.

B retorts:

xxix. A is lying, you know. 

Smullyan asks:

xxx. Can you tell who is a liar and who is a truthteller?

The implicature is you can not.  Another much quoted quote, which some call silly but I don't, goes, as per above: 

iv. Why should I be worried about dying? 
v. It's not going to happen in my lifetime!

Or, in my favoured version:

vi. Why worry about death? It's not going to happen in my life-time!

Neo-Wittgensteinians can explore the disimplicatures of both versions, with 'death' and 'dying'. Another, more convoluted, quote, perhaps, runs:

xxxi. I believe that either Jupiter has life or it does not.
xxxii. But I neither believe that it does, nor do I believe that it does not.
Another Smullyanianism.

xxxiii. Of course the falsity of the fact that you believe the pillar box is blue implies that you don't believe that it is blue.
xxxiv. But this does not mean that you believe it is NOT blue!

The next one should amuse Doyle -- if not Sartre!: 

xxxv. I have free will, but not of my own choice.
xxxvi. I have never freely chosen to have free will. 
xxxvii. I have to have free will, whether I like it or not!

For A. G. N. Flew, on the other hand, a student, indeed the FIRST student of Grice's, the 'free will' problem can be "resolved" by way of the Paradigm-Case Argument). The unpublications by Smullyan are many and varied. So are his publications.  In no particular order (this is paradoxical: surely this IS a particular order), Smullyan's publications include:
-- "What is the name of this book? The riddle of Dracula and other logical puzzles."
Note the paradox of of books having names rather than titles -- surely an allusion to The White Knight in "Through the Looking-Glass").  -- "Musical Memories." -- "Some interesting memories: a paradoxical life." -- "A beginner's guide to mathematical logic" -- if you need it -- or if you ARE a beginner, only. -- "Reflections: the magic, music, and mathematics of Raymond Smullyan."
World Scientific.  -- "Four lives: a celebration of Raymond Smullyan," edited by Raymond Smullyan (in collaboration with Jason Rosenhouse). -- "The chess mysteries of Sherlock Holmes." -- "Logical labyrinths." -- "The lady or the tiger? and other logical puzzles." -- "The magic garden of George B, and other logical puzzles." B is Boole of course, but Smullyan thinks it would be anti-Griceian to flout, "Do not be more informative than is required." -- "The riddle of Scheherazade and other amazing puzzles -- ancient and modern." -- "First-order logic"  This is Grice's favourite essay by Smullyan -- vide Grice, "Vacuous Names" --"Acknowledgments". -- "The Goedelian puzzle book: puzzles, paradoxes, and proofs." -- "5000 B. C. and other PHILOSOPHICAL fantasies: puzzles and paradoxes, riddles and reasonings." The emphasis on "philosophical" proves Smullyan is, first (otiose implicature: and foremost) a philosopher, or philosophical logician, if you mustn't. The use of 'reasonings' is reminiscent of Grice's John Locke lectures on aspects of reason "and reasoning". But Smullyan goes plural. -- "A mixed bag: jokes, puzzles, and other memorabilia." -- "To mock a mockingbird, and other logical puzzles." This is not just an irony on the novel, but a Goedelian puzzle, alla Mock Turtle Soup. "Mock Turtle? Never heard of such an animal" "What mock turtle soup is made of, of course," Alice is educated. Mocking a mockingbird is like mocking mock turtle soup, almost. -- "Set-theory and the continuum problem" (with Melvin Fitting). -- "A beginner's further guide to mathematical logic." If you need a second one. And you are the same beginner. World Scientific. -- "Theory of Formal Systems" -- Annals of Mathematics Studies, Princeton.  -- "Who knows?" -- rhetorical? -- "King Arthur in search of his dog, and other curious puzzles." -- "This film needs no title: a portrait of Raymond Smullyan." -- "Alice in Puzzle-Land: A Carrollian Tale for Children Under Eighty." -- "Goedel's Incompleteness Theorems." -- "Satan, Cantor, and Infinity -- and other mind-boggling puzzles." -- "Alice in Puzzle-Land: more brain-teasers by the most puzzling genius on earth. With an introduction by Martin Gardner." And so on.

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