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, April 3, 2017

Morton Deutsch and Herbert Paul Grice on conflict resolution and helpfulness -- conversational and other!


Morton Deutsch, if you've heard of him (or as Grice would say, “even if you haven’t”) is best described as an expert on Conflict Resolution, in other words, an expert on, if not Popper, or Carnap, Grice!

One telling example:

After Morton Deutsch learned that Lydia Shapiro, his future wife (as it happens) was sunbathing (yes! – this is a figure of speech – you only LITERALLY bathe in water) along (of all places) the Charles River in Boston, while she was supposed, rather, to be boringly interviewing ten subjects for one of Deutsch’s contrived sociological experiments, Deutsch resorted to what D. K. Lewis would call a rather “conventional” means of resolving a work-place dispute: Deutsch fired Schapiro.

A little more than a year later, though, Deutsch took a more creative or  constructive approach to repairing their frayed relationship: they became what Grice would call “fully cooperative partners,” or in more Christian terms, husband and wife.

“I have in the past accused my wife of marrying me to “get even,” as we say in New England, but she asserts, using a Freudianism, that it was “pure masochism,”” Deutsch wryly recalls.

After completing his experiment in graduate school, Deutsch, who lives on the isle of Manhattan, perfected his Griceian formula for reconciliation to become a leading expert on Griceian conflict resolution and mediation.

Deutsch not only remained married fory years, he also co-wrote a prescriptive essay entitled “Preventing World War III," where "preventing" is conceptually related to 'predicting' (via opposition) --. (You predict that p; you prevent p from happening).

Whatever credit Deutsch might have deserved for thwarting another global military conflict, his principles provided (as a matter of intellectual history) a theoretical framework for various Cold-War negotiations (i.e. not hot-war ones, as Grice would disimplicate) for court decisions that voided legally sanctioned racial segregation, and for Poland’s rather peaceful transition from Communist rule.

Deutsch served on the faculty at Columbia -- "the uni in New York," as Grice explains, "not the country in South America" -- until he became professor emeritus.

There, Deutsch founded the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (since renamed for him), which he ran.

Deutsch should have called it "The Grice Institute," or the "Manhattan Centre for Griceian Studies," if you mustn't (but perhaps Grice is too Oxonian for that?)

Cfr. Grice's New York example, though:

A: Smith doesn't seem to be having a girl-friend these days.

B: He's spending a lot of time in New York.

     (Logic and Conversation, II, Harvard). Implicating (or “+>” what?)

“The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice,” which he (Deutsch, not Grice -- now this is getting confusing) edited with Peter T. Coleman and Eric C. Marcus, is (for those who know it) a standard manual for dealing with labour, commercial, international and (why not?) marital disputes.

John T. Jost, a social psychologist at New York University (yes, they exist!) wrote in “The journal Social Justice Research” that “in what is probably Deutsch’s most influential essay, “The Resolution of Conflict,” Deutsch summarises the lessons of his research tutorials on, among other things, Griceian cooperation and conflict” – where the ‘other things’ are oddly Griceian, too!

“The point,” Jost notes, “is”, almost alla Witters (as Grice calls Wittgenstein, “for short”), “that social forms are self-fulfilling, so that anti-Griceian coercion, anti-Griceian intimidation, anti-Griceian deception -- or ‘sneakiness,’ as Grice prefers – including D. F. Pears’s favourite form, ‘self-deception’ --, anti-Grceian distrust and anti-Griceian hostility are both causes and effects of competition, whereas Griceian assistance, Griceian openness, Griceian information-sharing, Griceian perceived similarity, and Griceian friendliness are both causes and effects of, of course, Griceian cooperation,” or ‘helpfulness,’ as Grice less pretentiously puts it in his less pretentious (than the Harvard ones) Oxford lectures on logic and conversation where he coined the English term of art ‘implicature’ – “Implicatura” had been used in Latin by Sidonius!

Morton Deutsch was born, of all places, in the Bronx, to Charles and Ida Deutsch, Jewish immigrants from what is now Poland (implicature: but then really wasn’t). His father, if you care to know, was a butter and egg wholesaler (Implicature: his mother was not)

Raised in the picturesque Washington Heights section of Manhattan (Grice lived on the Berkeley Heights), Deutsch read Freud and Marx when he was ten years old, graduated from Townsend Harris Hall and entered City College when he was fifteen years old planning, or 'intending', as Grice would prefer, to become a psychiatrist (vide Grice, "Intention and Uncertainty").

“I became disenchanted with the idea of being a pre-med student after dissecting a pig in a biology lab,” Deutsch, not Grice, recalls.

Oddly, ‘grice’ means ‘pig’ in Scots.

“I was happy to switch to a psychology major,” Deutsch notes.

Deutsch received a bachelor of science degree from City College and a master’s from the Uni of Pennsylvania.

“I grew up in a time when, as a Jew, I experienced many instances of prejudice, blatant as well as subtle, and could observe the gross acts of injustice being suffered by blacks,” Deutsch recalls in an essay in “Reflections on 100 Years of Experimental Social Psychology.”

Deutsch did not merely “observe,” to use a Popperianism

Deutsch contributed lunch money to the Spanish Loyalists in the 1930s; organized a protest against the quality of high-school cafeteria food and a strike by fellow waiters at a summer resort during college; challenged what he considered a racist statement by a professor; and, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, enlisted in the Army Air Forces and flew 30 missions as a navigator over the Nazi-occupied Old World.

“Being in World War II and experiencing the devastation and horror of war, even though I felt the war against the Nazis was justified, I became interested in prevention of war,” Deutsch observes in “Teachers College Today” magazine

It was at M.I.T., where Deutsch earned his doctorate on the G.I. Bill, where he also met his afore-mentioned wife, Shapiro.

It was also at M.I.T. where Deutsch became a disciple of Kurt Lewin, the psychologist whose favourite dictum was something Popper would perhaps approve of: “There’s nothing so practical as a good theory” (Lewin is punning on the Aristotelian terms of art which happen to be opposite for Aristotle, ‘theoria’, or contemplation, and ‘praxis’ or action).

Deutsch’s postgraduate studies were heavily influenced by the atomic bombings of Japan, followed by the formation of the United Nations.

Deutsch’s doctoral dissertation is the basis for his Griceian theory of Griceian cooperation and competition, which postulates that the success of a group – A and B -- depends on the extent to which its members believe their goals are shared and see a potential to make common cause.

cfr. Grice's keyword: "COOPERATIVE PRINCIPLE".


More formally, let “G” stand for “goal”, and “BEL” for “believe”.


BEL(B)G(A)p à G(B)p

In plain English, if B believes that A’s goal is to secure the state of affairs, “p”, then B assumes that goal, if only momentarily.


In other words,

The intersection of G(A) and G(B) is not null. Cooperation, including conversation, is not a zero-sum game.

He (Deutsch, not Grice) had in mind the United Nation’s Security Council, he says, when “I had an image of them either co-operating or competing and had different senses of what the consequences would be for the world.” (For Frege, there are only two senses: to the right (spin positive) and to the left (spin negative); for Grice, there is only one sense – “do not multiply senses beyond necessity”).

But the same rules (only for Grice they are not rules) apply for confrontations big and small, and, since he fired (but later married) Shapiro, his researcher at M.I.T., Deutsch says there were plenty of occasions to practice what he preached.

“In our years of marriage,” he says, using an expression meant to provoke Popper, “I have had splendid opportunities to study conflict as a participant observer.”

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