[hist-analytic] Anscombe on 'Under the description d'

steve bayne baynesrb at yahoo.com
Fri Feb 13 20:33:24 EST 2009

I am preparing some brief remarks on Aune on analyticity. They will be brief, but central will be the special place of the principle ~(p & ~p) in analyticity in the broad sense, that is, where meaning is at issue and not, merely, substitution instances of laws of logic.
In the mean time here are a couple of thoughts related to my work on Anscombe's theory of Action. If Speranza is out there, I would appreciate from him any reference he might provide on THIS topic in Grice.

I have some criticisms to make of Anscombe on 'under a description'. I will begin with how she responds to one objection to her use of the expression in _Intention_. However, the text I am referring to in this post is "Under a Description" in _Nous_ (13) 1979 as well as in _Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind: Collected Papers Volume III, pp. 208-219). There Anscombe identifies 'under the description d' with 'qua d'. In addition in 'x under the description d', she says that the subject of the sentence is 'x' not, ever, 'x under the description d'.

If I say, “I was allowed on stage under the description of ‘stage manager’”? This is ambiguous; this is the first claim I wish to make.

 If “under the description of stage manager ” means “being stage manager so-called,” that would be one reading where I am, merely referred to as such, that is as stage manager. I may not be the stage manager. In this case the sentence means one thing: I was allowed on stage as the so-called station manager. But suppose I mean by “under the description of stage manager,” rather “qua stage manager,” that would be something else. Then the sentence would mean that I was allowed onstage because I was the stage manager. 

One can imagine circumstances where, even though I was not the stage manager, I was allowed on stage only because I was the so-called stage manager. It gets a bit clearer if we take ‘authority’ instead of ‘manager’, so that our sentence becomes: “I was allowed on stage because I was the so-called staging authority,” as opposed to “I was allowed on stage qua staging authority.” In addition, one cannot construct cases where I am on stage qua stage manager but I am not the stage manager. It may not even be the case that I am a so-called stage manager; no one may have ever understood me to be the stage manager. It may have been the case that my being let on stage qua stage manager implies that I was also called the stage manager, but to draw the conclusion that the cases were the same, and that there is no ambiguity, it would have to be added that one might in the very same sense be both the stage manager and the so-called stage manager. The
 reader will not experience the contrast unless the contrast between being a stage manager and being a so-called stage manager or even a stage manager so called belongs among one's linguistic intuitions (or part of one's idiolect, etc). So it would appear that there is a difference between two possible readings of ‘under a description’. But now the important question: In the sense in which ‘under a description’ does not mean ‘qua’ is ‘x under the description d’ a subject term? 

If in “Bob under the description ‘stage manager Ved" we have it that” “under the description ‘stage manager’” can be read "as as the so called stage manager” then in “Bob as the so called stage manager fired Ruddy” the subject is not “Bob” but “Bob as the so-called station master.

Steven R. Bayne
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