[hist-analytic] Reductive vs. Reductionist Analysis

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Thu Feb 12 12:50:35 EST 2009

I would like to make a short one about this  distinction, which some may dub 
'fastidious' or 'over-nice' (recall that 'nice'  _means_ 'non-scio', i.e. je 
ne sais quoi, almost!)

The distinction, from  what I recall, is appealed to by H. P. Grice in 
'Valedictory Essay'  ("Retrospective Epilogue" in the print version) in WOW. And it 
is made in reply  to a philosopheress it took me ages to identify. Apparently, 
her maiden name is  Rowntree. 

Anyway, Grice refers to her as "Mrs. Jack". It's Julie M.  Rowntree Jack, I 
believe, of Somer(female-only)ville, Oxford. A nice college  which is 
particularly nice since it's the last one one sees on the way to  London!


Anyway, Mrs Jack circulated a paper that reached  Grice's hands. "The rights 
and wrongs of Grice". Grice was charmed and indulged  in considering the 
'wrongs'. One wrong, Mrs Jack has, is that Grice is offering  a 


Utterer U means that asterisk sub-psi p  by
uttering a token x of type X  

iff     U intended ... etc.

Grice protests:  That's hardly 'reductionist'. It's what he  calls:

REDUCTIVE  analysis

Utterer U means that  asterisk sub-psi p
by uttering a  token x of type X  

iff U intended ... etc.

So what's the difference?  

Obvious, says Grice. _If_ in the analysans, the type of concept used for  the 
elucidation of the 'problem' concept _belongs_ in the same category (and  
does not involve a 'transcategorial epithet of the philosophical eschatological  
kind', then the analysis is _reductive_.

On the other hand, there's the  Churches (Patricia and her husband): _if_ the 
analysans contains a concept which  belongs in a _lower_ category (in a scale 
of transcategorial epithets of the  eschatological kind), then the analysis 
is _reductionist_. 

S. R. Bayne  refers to 'reductionist', naturally, as 'eliminationist', in 
hist-analytic when  he traces a parallel between Eddington ("The Table No. 1 
reduces to the Table  No. 1") and the targets of Russell's "neutral monism" ("mind 
reduces to  matter"). As Bayne notes, there is a distinction to be made here, 
which is  neither fastidious nor too nice (in the bad sense of 'nice'). In 
Eddington's  case, _both_ analysandum and analysans belong to the same, as it 
were, category;  they do not a transcategorial eschatological movement -- both 
are 'physical', as  it were -- Bayne's example is "There are no chairs"). In a 
neutral monism, one  is possibly adjudicating a transcategorial epithet. Note 
that if we replace  'sense-data' by _mind_, then indeed the phenomenalist's 
account is one of  providing an 'analysis' of _matter_ (or 'material-object' -- 
so-called -- level)  in terms of _mind_!

I would think that some attempt at some kind of  'analysis' qua _result_ of 
the activity of 'analysing' must be what was in the  mind of 'analytic 
philosophers'. I recall discussing this with John I. Biro --  regarding his 
"Griceanism" in _Monist_. 

A whole generation (if not two  or three) of readers (fastidious readers, 
I'll add) of Grice have taken him to  be as propounding a 'reductionist analysis' 
of 'the semantic' into the  'psychological'. This is _triply_ obscure! (The 
fun thing is that at least one  book with "Grice" in the subtitle: Avramides's 
MIT book -- is a clarification of  this out of her D.Phil Oxon while she was 
at Somerville! -- Ain't this a small  world?) 

I tend to see the triple obscurity in that, to me, 'the  semantic' really 
belongs to _type_ expression meaning (x/X means p). An  elucidation of "Utterer 
means ..." seems to me to be _pragmatic_ from the start.  It _is_ true that 
Grice attempts an analysis of 'expression meaning' in terms of  'utterer's 
meaning' but I call that a 'minor' reduction -- a 'minor problem'.  Indeed that is 
precisely Grice's label, "minor problem" in "Meaning  Revisited"!

Now, I'm not sure what Biro made of that distinction -- but I  recall he was 
kind enough to let me have a TYPED copy of a REPLY he gave to  SUPPES -- in 
PGRICE -- now in the files of "The Grice Club" -- somewhere, I  suppose. 

And in any case, the status of the distinction 'reductive' vs.  
'reductionist' analysis will not please _all_. 

One may find it  superfluous, or uninteresting. They would claim that only an 
analysis which  claims to be _reductionist_ is philosophically interesting 
_at all_. And there  is some truth in this. Isn't the interpretation of an 
analysis as 'reductive'  (but not reductionist) a sort of ad-hoc, non-committing 

Not  necessarily. As far as Grice is concerned, in my view, he would see, 
alla  Davidson, all 'psychological terms' as creating a sort of 'holistic' 
network.  "means", "intends", "believes", ... -- A more serious, or deeper analysis 
would  be to _reduce_ or 'analyse' (at least) these psychological states in 
terms of  'functional states'. Here the logic of the analysis is different. 

As  Schiffer has made it clear (before he committed his apostasy!) it has to 
do with  the 'logic' of _theoretical_ concepts. The philosopher who embraces a 
 'functionalist' theory of the mind is not claiming that the mental reduces 
to  the physiological, or, in more functionalist terms, to sensory input and  
behavioural output. He is claiming rather, that is expects there is some Theory 
 (of a Psychological Kind -- and this is important; it's _not_ a Theory of 
the  PHYSICAL kind) which provides correlates -- pretty much alla Carnap  
A-postulates, but ceteris paribus.

But eliminationists (if not  supervenientists) will remain unconvinced. I 
recall me approaching, candidly and  charmingly S. Stich at one symposium, with 
that quote by Grice (from "Method")  to the effect that a psychological theory 
of this kind will still be  insufficient: we need to argue that postulation of 
psychological states be  motivated not just by our need to _explain_ 
behavioural output, but by our  _concern_ for the welfare of others. I distinctly 
recall Stich's answer,  "Preposterous!" -- But oprobium and animosity _within_ (or 
without) the history  of analytic philosophy should be left for a longer day!


J.  L.  

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