[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:
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
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!
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