[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
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
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
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
"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
Severo then brings attention to an interesting paper by Quine on
"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'
"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!
J. L. Speranza
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