The Grice Club


The Grice Club

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Is Grice the greatest philosopher that ever lived?

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Grice and Broad on "logical construction"


I believe it was from Broad that Grice got convinced that the idea of 'logical construction' was an interesting one.

What is interesting to me is that, years later -- Grice first quoted Broad in 1941! and that's the publication, not writing, date! -- Grice was still using 'logical construction', as applied to the very same issues: a 'logical-construction' approach to "I", say (as he had done in his "Personal Identity").

Jones notes in "Construction, de-construction, re-construction," THIS BLOG: "I am returning to Speranza's postings on these topics, having been distracted for a while. One would think (being irreverent) that deconstruction is the kind of thing one might have to do between a construction and a re-construction, so that's my title. It's not so of course."

I think Derrida liked to play with the idea of 'de-construction'. Oddly, at Yale, Derrida was better known at the French department than the Philosophy department!

Jones goes on:

"I have had to refer to that wikpedia entry, since Speranza points out that the post I commented on was really motivated by consideration of deconstructionism. And I like the idea. That is, the idea I picked up from a fleeting glance at the wiki. It sounds like deconstructionism is a kind of analysis (and "rational reconstruction" is also an analytic method)."

Yes. Grice's use of LOGICAL construction (as pre-used by Broad) is possibly also a type of analysis. Matter of fact, my favourite bit in "Personal Identity", where Grice applies the logical-construction approach to "I" goes along these lines:

"The objection that my analysis of "I" is too complex is too silly to be taken seriously, so I won't!"

Jones goes on:

"It seems however to be an analysis motivated by the prejudice (not wholly without foundation) that any philosophical text (or is it any kind of text at all?) will, when we look closely enough, turn out to be ill-founded. Not just wrong, but muddled and incoherent? This points to another kind of paradox of analysis."

While THAT may be a presupposition, I don't think it need to be universal. One can deconstruct Daedalus's 'palace' and find that it is possible to do so. One may go on and re-construct it, actually.

On the other hand, perhaps, as Grice uses 'logical construction', we are using 'construction' differently. Thus, 'logical construction' will not 'behave' like, say, 'rational reconstruction'. Grice's idea, when he says that "I" is a 'logical construction' is Broading and Russellian in nature. It merely seems to implicate that "I" is a complex and that identifying its logical components will show this. Thus, Grice's "I" gets 'reduced' to a succession of temporal states. The classification of 'personal identity' theories by Broad is VERY complex, and perhaps Grice is simplifying it!

Also, belonging to the generation he did, Grice HAD to endorse the 'logical construction' view, since it was fashionable!

Jones goes on:

"If a rational re-construction, (perhaps a formal model) is offered as a disambiguation of some historical text, and if we suppose from the advances in analysis which have taken place in the interim that we are now capable of constructing such things without serious risk of incoherence, how can such a method provide an understanding of a theory which was in fact muddled and actually was incoherent or inconsistent?"

Too true. Grice's source for his logical-construction of "I" is Locke. Perry has studied this (in his compilation on "Personal Identity"). That is, Locke first provided a not too incoherent analysis of 'I' in terms of memory.

It's not the only logical construction possible! P. F. Strawson, Grice's tutee, would rather provide a criterion (and thus logical construction of "I", qua 'substance'?) in terms of spatio-temporal identity ("The concept of a person")


"The Aristotelian modelling which I undertook under provocation from Speranza, Code and Grice (in reverse temporal order of unwitting complicity), provides a "classic" example, for I was there constructing multiple formal (and therefore, with the logical tools at hand, with a very high confidence of coherence) models approximating to a theory which on the face of it was probably wrong, if not actually inconsistent. The most conspicuous sign of difficulty in the syllogism is in the existential fallacy, and this feature forced me to offer two kinds of model, both of which probably  misrepresented Aristotle by choosing different ways of fixing the original.  One by giving the syllogism a semantics which makes the existential fallacies non-fallacious, and the other kind by choosing a more credible account of the semantics and dropping the syllogisms which are not sound in that context."

-- and which was very good. For the record, those 'existential fallacies' fascinated Strawson (he spends pages and pages on them in "Introduction to Logical Theory"). The funny side to this is that in the introduction to the "Introduction", Strawson credits "Mr. H. P. Grice," from which "I have never ceased to learn about logic since he was my tutor"!

Grice's essay Jones is referring to is "Vacuous Names". Alas, for that festschrift (as it were) to Quine, P. F. Strawson was invited to contribute his own independent essay. Otherwise we would have had "In defense of the dogma of vacuous names," co-written by Grice and Strawson (or something).

Jones goes on:

"It seems to me that the prejudice of deconstructionism often enough turns out to be true that a constructive analytic method should recognise the probability that the matters under analysis will not hang together and should offer a systematic approach to obtaining an informative analysis nonetheless. For this a mere de-construction will not suffice, if by this we mean taking apart the original just far enough to show that it is ill-founded or inconsistent.Typically a theory which does not fit together will have been based on some sound insights, each of which can be coherently articulated, but which prove difficult to combine sucessfully."

In the "Retrospective Epilogue" to "Way of Words" (which he originally called "Valediction"), Grice notes, when responding to Mrs. Jack, that one has to distinguish, say, a THEORY of meaning, from an ANALYSIS of meaning.

Grice is suggesting that, if Jack is right, as she isn't, the philosophy of meaning would NOT rely on the philosopher's INTUITIONS of how 'mean' is used in casual conversation -- since theoretical terms are "not usually regarded" as the result of philosophical intuition.

Another interesting passage in the valediction, also related to Grice's careful reading of Jack's careless critique, is that Jack fails to distinguish between an analysis which is reductive from one which is reductionist. E.g. I may want to say that Locke is right and that "I" is a logical construction out of memory, but that does not mean that I have disqualified or eliminated "I" from my vocabulary. We may have a reductive analysis (since a non-reductive analysis would be symmetrical, and vicious -- vide Avramides, "Mind and Meaning: A Griceian account of communication," MIT) which is not, alla Churchlands, 'reductionist' and 'eliminationist.' And stuff!

Jones goes on:

"A proper analysis will find these coherent parts and will involve rational constructions of maximal consistent subtheories together with some account of why these cannot be combined together. In my Aristotelian enterprise there is just an inkling of such a method, but no systematic articulation.  For me, the methodological exposition is to hang around X-Logic, and this will involve an account of the role of rational re-construction which engages with the probability that the original material will prove to be, more or less, a mess. Here I might say a little more about the distinction between construction and re-construction, which in my last comment on this depended on whether the construction is intended to explicate some prior material (re-construction), or whether it is an approach to some topic ab-initio (construction). This is a wafer thin distinction, possibly not sustainable, and does not really impact on how the construction is undertaken, but only on how we judge the success of the construction. Once again I refer to Carnap/Quine on analyticity, in which Quine insists against Carnap that a defined concept of analyticity must comply with precedent and that its compliance cannot be established, whereas Carnap specifically uses "explication" for the case that a definition is absolved from obligation to conform to precedent and is permitted to escape the paradox of analysis by providing a more precise and hence not quite the same meaning as any of the precedents."

This is very good. I love the keyword: 'explication'. One has to be careful, though. When Grice coined 'implicature' (well, Sidonius had used it earlier, in Latin -- 'inplicatura' [sic]), one may think that the opposite of 'implication' (as Grice does not use it) is 'ex-plication'. It is an interesting fact of the English language that while the noun is 'explication', we don't see 'explicate' much. On the other hand, we abuse 'explain' and 'explanation'. So there must be an explication why Carnap chose 'explication' rather than 'explanation'.

This reminds me of Byron -- I was reading that a new opera based on his "Sardanapalo", to music by Liszt -- will soon be performed -- who used to say, "His explanation is very clever; perhaps too clever. In fact, I would not be surprised if some may require his explanation be accompanied by an explanation to his explanation." Or something!

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