[hist-analytic] Rosebushes and Cherry-Trees

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Fri Jan 30 07:48:57 EST 2009


"In favour of minimalism, we  might hear, an appeal, echoing
Quine, to the beauty  of 'desert landscapes'. But such an
appeal I would  regard as inappropriate; we are not being
asked by a  Minimalist to give our vote to a special, and no
doubt very fine, type of landscape; we are being asked  to
express our preference for an ordinary sort of  lanscape, to
rosebushes and cherry-trees in  midwinter, rather than in
spring or summer. To  change the image somewhat, what
bothers me about  what I'm being offered is not that it is
bare, but  that it has been systematically and relentlessly
_undressed_"     Grice, "The Life and Opinions of Paul  Grice",  
in PGRICE, p.  68

(This is Grice's expansion on _Strawson_'s imagery in his review of Quine, I  
understand)

Severo on Hylton on Quine

Excellent to have the  review in hist-analytic. Some running comments:


In a message dated  1/30/2009 7:03:31 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, 
rpsevero at gmail.com writes:
The  latest volume of the Arguments of the Philosophers series is on Quine. 
----  I love that series. I believe Warnock wrote on Grice for it. That's 
what we need  for Grice! But fear Honderich will not find it sellable  enough!

----
The author is a leading Russell and Quine scholar, and  this particular book 
has been keenly anticipated over the last few years.  Hylton's earlier book on 
Russell is widely acknowledged as one of the best  currently available.

---- The footnote refers to the title which includes  "the emergence of 
analytic philosophy". I suppose I like the idea of  'emergence'. Hardly 
'supervenience'. As a philosopher who once tried to  understand (and failed) philosophy 
of biology, I _never_, personally, use  'emergence'. So metaphysical. But the 
title mentions, 'idealism' and the  _emergence_ of analytic philosophy. In 
Chora we are discussing 'causes' and  effects. It's like saying, "Idealism was a 
good thing" (alla '1006 and all  that') since it was the Cause of Analytic 
Philosophy...

---
So it's  natural to expect high-quality material in this case too. Readers 
will not be  disappointed. But there is an important difference to bear in mind. 
Whereas the  one on Russell contains analysis and historical reconstruction, 
this one offers  "a unified, sympathetic, and comprehensive treatment" (p. 1) 
of Quine's  philosophy. 

---- Which is very good. My thesis advisor (friend, too)  Edoardo Antonio 
Rabossi, was once asked, in a public seminar, as to his  'mentors' ever: he said, 
"Chomsky and Quine". Surprisingly, when I read "Life  and Opinions of Paul 
Grice" he goes, Paul Grice. "My mentors? Chomsky and  Quine". In the case of 
Chomsky it's chronologically important, and I was always  amused that Chomsky's 
famous _Aspects of the theory of syntax_ acknowledges "A.  P. Grice" (!). Quine 
is more of a expectable figure. Older than Grice, met him  in Oxford, and as 
Danny Frederick notes, had (Quine did) an excellent sense of  humour. I will 
add a little comment on Grice on "Heidegger" and his later style.  In 
'Prolegomena' he indeed uses jocularly the phrase, "Heidegger is the greatest  living 
philosopher". This I thought provocative in that the Harvard lectures  were 
open, and who knows if there's no visiting continental person in the room!  In 
PPQ he refers (Chapman was somewhat offended by this) the 'rednecks of the  
Vienna Circle' by which one assumes he means Carnap. So it seems that while  
Heidegger (whom Ryle reviewed in 1929 for _Mind_) could be the butt of a joke,  by 
1988 the circle had grown full: it was Carnap (and perhaps "Quine" who after  
all, was a Vienna Circle member, too) who had laughed derisively at 
Heidegger's  "Nothing Noths" who get the second laugh. 

It's also amusing that while  Grice (who contributed to "Words and 
Objections", the Quine festschrift)  mentions Quine in so laudatory tones, he goes on 
immediately to say he never  shared _one_ tenet with him. And goes on to cite 
the metaphor of the desert  landscapes, suggesting that Grice will change his 
"California bay" landscape for  _nothing_!
----
Severo continues that he'll dwell on 'controversial'  items:

1. Oftentimes Quine is portrayed as a negative thinker whose main  purpose is 
to destroy traditional doctrines, especially those associated with  meaning,  
"":
Quine's metaphysics is an attempt at "limning of the true  and ultimate 
structure of reality" (Word and Object, p. 221). 

--- Must  say I loved the 'limning'. A bit like 'taming of the true' if you  
wish?

Well, not quite, and count me on 'taming' her rather. OED notes of  'limn': 
"Now literary and arch. [Altered form of LUMINE v.]". Archaic in Quine  means 
"Manx". 

Severo continues:

"That Quine's philosophy is to be  conceived as having a metaphysical strand 
alongside its epistemology is  something of a novelty in the literature."

Perhaps because we tend to  assume that 'anti-metaphysical' naturalism and 
physicalism (what Grice calls one  of the seven betes noires in his road to the 
Holly of Hollies) do not count, but  they do! They are just as metaphysical as 
their opponents. 

Severo then  brings attention to an interesting paper by Quine on 
"Analyticity"  (1982).


"indeterminacy of translation is often thought to affect  nearly all of 
Quine's philosophy. Hylton argues that it "is of relatively little  significance""

I'd go with Hylton. I always understood -- but mainly  after long 
conversations with this with M. J. Murphy and others -- that it's the  "gavagai" complex. 
I think it's Quine's idea to say things relevant for the  linguist (of the 
Bloomfield school) that got him into 'indeterminacy'  thing.

"Ultimately their justification will be empirical, just like that  of any 
other any sentence."

When, for Rabossi, I had to undertake the  rather dull task of going through 
Mill's System of Logic, came across his views  that "one, two, buckle my shoe, 
three four, open the door", etc. are all  _empirically_ aquired. It turns 
out, to use Baumgarten-Kant's example, "7 + 5 =  12" is indeed synthetic a 
posteriori. Not that I really care. It shows how much  of scholasticism behind the 
distinction there is!

"That whales are  mammals and not fish is not just a matter of meaning, but 
an empirical fact  about the world."

Well, it amuses me to read in my Loeb Aristotle, that  he has indeed whales 
(in Greek, though) as fish (in Greek). Again here we should  distinguish alla 
Chomsky between descriptive adequacy (Aristotle's fishy  cetaceous may be 
adequate descriptive) from explanatory adequacy (where the  presence of mammary 
glands in the whale will provide a counterexample or  exception to your 'regular' 
fish). 

"That energy and matter can be  inter-defined is an empirical claim of the 
theory of relativity, and not just a  terminological stipulation."

And what about Eddington's 'wavicle'.  Terminological stipulation if ever 
there was one! I note Eddington is also cited  in the OED under 'slithy'!



"the author chose to avoid  nearly all comparisons with other philosophies."

Perhaps he was of his  own. Recall his background was 'mathematics', so he 
didn't really belong to a  philosophy club or anything. When in Oxford, he 
socialised, slightly, with Grice  and Strawson. Irritably, Quine focuses on the 
lack of hygiene and teeth (if I  recall him alright) in Grice _while in USA_, 
while he was so _surprised_ to see  him wearing a white tie for the St. John's 
inauguration party. I'm not familiar  with Quine's socialising in Harvard. I 
believe he was, despite what Dan  Frederick says about his sense of humour, a 
pretty private person, and not one  that would look, as Grice did, for 
'conviviality' in philosophy _every_ other  step.

" No names are mentioned. This a trait that runs through most of  the book: 
the actual debates in which Quine figures so prominently are mostly  left out."

Maybe a matter of temperament. I for one followed _one_  debate: the 
Grice/Quine. Grice wrote a charming "Vacuous Names" which was  submitted at a rather 
late stage for the festschrift, but made it. In his reply,  "Reply to Grice", 
Quine is so terse that bores people. He notes that for all  Grice's love for 
detail and his absolutely supercalifragilisticous subscript  device -- a variant 
of his square-bracket device -- for which he acknowledges  the help from 
Boolos and Parsons -- just to tease Quine -- what Grice does, in  Quine's view, is 
_otiose_ if not redundant. His reply is 'half' a page!  

Cheers,

J. L. Speranza  

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