[hist-analytic] The problem with Molyneux

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Thu Feb 19 21:04:24 EST 2009

-- is that he was French, like Descartes (just joking!) -- and he was  Irish, 
Or some remarks about the senses. "if a man born blind can feel the  
differences between shapes such as spheres and cubes, could he similarly  distinguish 
those objects by sight if given the ability to see?"  
cited by Grice, Some  remarks about the senses.

The Smell of Onions: Some Historical References  in the Philosophy 
Literature. Have you noticed that onions do not smell the way  they used to?

In a message dated 2/19/2009 8:05:29 P.M. Eastern Standard  Time, 
baynesrb at yahoo.com writes in "Re: A Dry Martini"
Look at the paper by  Anscombe on sensations.


I did!
Oh my God! Actually, not  the paper, but some online notes I found on pdf. by 
someone who took the trouble  to copy out each example by Anscombe replying 
this person criticising her  _Intention_.

Anscombe focuses on 'legs crossed'. I hardly cross my legs.  I think it's a 
feminine thing. Have you noticed how _unfeminine_ females look  when they 

I enjoyed Anscombe's discussion of 'sensation of X'.  This predates Grice, 
"Some remarks about the senses" -- it was, as Bayne notes,  Analysis 1961 --. 
But Grice kept ringing in my brain.

In "Some remarks  about the senses" he has some examples which I found of 
interest. The Molineaux  problem is one of them. Indeed, most of our talk about 
_sensing_ this or that is  *biased*. I enjoyed it (what's the sensation of 
_it_?) when I learned that his  "Causal Theory of Perception" for example was 
reprinted in Schwartz, "Sensing"  philosophy compilation. For some reason, I love 
that verb, _to sense_. It *is*  intense.

Yes, Anscombe must be having in mind the language-problem  argument. She does 
mention 'pain' (if _not_ 'pain in the neck'). And she does  say that a fact 
(of the matter, as Bayne would expand) needs to be _shareable_  (unlike my pain 
in the neck, I would say).

The online notes I was reading  were pretty inconclusive, alas. 


Yes, I think Descartes was  to blame. Witters may not have quoted him, but he 
does quote Augustine, no? Same  thing! (just joking). I think it was via 
McGinn (in his contribution to Andrew  Woodfield, on representation, Oxford 
University Press) that I learned of  'methodological solipsism' --. I _have_ read 
Augustine's passage (that  Wittgenstein cites in Philosophical Investigations) 
and in Latin too, but I  forget if Augustine is being a mentalist, a Cartesian 
_avant la lettre_, or  what!


I was revising a bibl. list recently and came across a  nice motto with 
Cartesian resonances -- if only  that:

"I think; therefore I  err"!

-- talk of _akrasia_ in the theoretical  realm!


Grice does have a pretty specific "Descartes on  clear and distinct 
perception", but I don't think he was too serious (Grice)  about him, as he should. 
Grice is primarily concerned with the fact that we _do_  use 'certain' (or more 
commonly, 'Certainly!' -- said _smugly_) even when we  don't _know_!

I enjoyed Anscombe's description of what it feels to be in  a vat, er, ... 
no. Rather: what it feels to go down an elevator. She says, 'your  stomach goes 
up'. _This_ she says is the 'internal' description. "Going down an  elevator" 
does not really _describe_ anything; it's the trick of thinking of it  'under 
a description' only. Funny, I would never described the sensation of  
_vertigo_ as I call it as having to do with my stomach. For one, I think _my_  
sensation of vertigo is located (or placed) slightly _higher_ than my stomach.  

In this same bibl. list I came across another essay with a nice  title:

"Like me"

-- the  subtitle: empathy and the knowledge of other minds. The problem is 
that here we  seem to be discussing other people's _stomachs_ rather than minds. 

Anscombe discusses 'the sky is blue' -- the blue patch of the sensation,  and 
the sensum. I don't _do_ colours. I find them _very_ complicated  
*philosophically*. My philosophical world is complex enough in black and  white!

-- but my antipathy for colour problems may have been triggered by  having 
heard Barry Stroud dedicate three hours of my time talking about them!  (and 
citing Hume). 

On the other hand, in one second, Grice dismisses the  problem. In 'Logic and 
Conversation', ii, or iii, he recalls an example  discussed with G. J.  

A: I want to buy a blue tie for  Richard.
B: This looks like a nice blue  tie.
A: Blue? That's _green_!

--- Grice says (words to the effect): it _is_  okay (and not just sloppy) to 
say that the tie is green under this light but  blue under this other light -- 
"when there is no question of a real change of  colour". 

Anscombe does go quite a bit on linguistic botanising. I  wouldn't say, she 
says, say "I believed that", but rather, "I would have thought  that 
perhaps...", etc. She notes that 'the sensation of flying' is not  realistic, and that 
the 'sensation of being told a fairy tale' is _otiose_.  

This reminds me that Warnock was so _happy_ when _he_ thought (Chapman  tells 
us) that, with Grice, they had found a lexical gap in the English  language. 
The gap was filled with a word they brought back from the  Latin:

the  visum

This connects with Anscombe.

Anscombe speaks of the  'smell of onions' (but what if onions lose their 
smell -- surely the description  is otiose and never as necessary as 'bitter'). 
And what about the 'visum'. Grice  and Warnock thought that if we can say that 
we smell the smell of onions, surely  we can say that we see the visum of 
onions. Ultimately, Grice and Warnock  thought that what they thought was a 
discovery was a _red_ herring!

The  smell of onions, the visum of a cow, -- and, it's back to a bitter, dry 
("try to  describe the aroma of coffee") ... martini.

No need to reply to this, S.  R. -- relax, and continue with your book. I can 


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