[hist-analytic] Clarity Is Not Enough

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Fri Feb 13 05:54:44 EST 2009


This motto rang in my brains all through my education as an analytic  
philosopher -- it rang in the corridors of power. Here we are trying at some  sincere 
analysis of things, and we had on our backs, Lewis's patronising rebuke,  
"Clarity is not enough".
 
The phrase is of course the title of a 1963 compilation (London: Allen --  
Muirhead Library of Philosophy) ed. by H. D. Lewis, -- the long tirade being,  
"Clarity is not enough: essays in criticism of linguistic philosophy".
 
The title essay is by H. H. Price, Welsh philosopher, sometime professor of  
logic at Oxford. He had indeed delivered this paper at the Joint Session,  
"Clarity is not enough" -- calmly and Britishly. No need for the exclamation  
mark, "Clarity is not enough!", as we sometimes come across the  injunction.
 
The fun thing, to me, in parts, was J. L. Austin's reply. Price was warning  
philosophers in _1945_: an inconvenient time if there ever was one. Austin was 
 coming back from Intelligence, Grice from Admiralty, Strawson from -- the  
trenches?, Hampshire from dealing with French detainees, etc. 
 
They were coming back to where they _belonged_: the dreaming spires, and  
they were ready to _dream_. They were older and wiser. Their philosophical joys  
had been cut short by the bad experience of war. They wanted to go back  and 
have fun, and meet friends. They were not into _grand_ schemes of  things, such 
as writing a page in the History of Philosophy. Warnock of all  saw this 
clearly, "We were parochial; we couldn't care less about what others  were doing 
-- philosophy-wise in other parts". 
 
It is in this context that we interpret Austin's reply to Price:
 
"[Granted], clarity [may] be not enough; but, perhaps, it will be time  to go 
into
this when
we are within measurable distance of achieving
clarity on some matter."!
 
---------
 
The case of Austin is edifying. In philosophy proper he _never_ lost his  
critical attitude. And his pieces are short, public events -- not meant as  
chapters in a book. It's the fact that he died of cancer that we do have the  
Philosophical Papers (1961), and it's the fact that he criticised in a friendly  
way Warnock's book that Warnock managed to 'publish' Austin's "Sense and  
Sensibilia" --. Urmson is a different matter. The "How to do things with words"  
lectures _were_ programmatic and sketchy -- notwithstanding Nidditch's efforts  
with the analytic index or Marina Sbisa with further annotations using the  
Bodleian manuscript 'tradition'. 
 
But I take Grice's word there. He finds "Sense and sensibilia" not too  
entertaining; I disagree: I find it charming. But Grice seems to be on the right  
track (well, he lived with Austin for decades!) that Austin's constructive  
efforts _are_ in the "How to do things with words". It was perhaps _there_ that  
he wanted to achieve 'clarity' or at least  
 
"to be approaching the time to go 
into [Price's 'Clarity is not enough']
when we are within measurable  distance 
of achieving clarity on some matter."
 
Imagine the matter being the 'anatomy' of a speech act:
 
'perlocutionary effect'
'illocutionary force'
locutionary act -- rhetic act
                          phonic act
                          phemic act
 
Similarly, I would think we could view Grice's 'programme' in typical two  
stages:
 
1. provide an analysis of 'expression' meaning in terms of utterer's  meaning
2. provide an analysis of 'utterer's meaning' in terms of 'utterer's  
intentions'.
 
For all Grice did in that area, he was aware that his 'distinctions' would  
take time to digest. Why, the OED credits Pears (1971) as one of the earliest  
cites for 'implicature' -- quote provided by yours truly to OED3 --. But Grice 
 was working on 'types' of 'implication' from at least 1961 -- "Proceedings 
of  the Aristototelian Society".
 
Indeed, S. R. Chapman is right in viewing Grice's early efforts as  
elucidating what many were into in terms of 'pragmatic' or 'contextual'  implication 
(Nowell-Smith, 1955; Grant -- in his obscure essay in Philosophy,  Isobel 
Hungerland in his longish essay for Inquiry, etc. -- all perhaps deriving  from 
Moore's _very_ early remarks on 'it being raining but me not believing it'. 
 
Grice was aware that the distinctions to be made -- to achieve, as it were,  
'clarity' -- were tiresome ones to make, if one goes to 'move fast'. In "Life  
and Opinions" he goes charmingly to admit that after all, his beloved  
'implicature' (or pragmatic use of 'imply') is _never_ recognised by Witters,  and 
'seldom -- if at all -- by Austin himself.
 
Grice continued his laborious efforts in tutorials. Furberg, for example,  
will publish a book-length study on meaning, saying, and implicating, that gets  
a warm acknowledgement to Grice's tutorials, and indeed, it was little by  
little, in the early 1960s, that, at least those who dreamed at the Spires,  
started quoting "Mr. H. P. Grice" on this and that.
 
A little clarity -- surely not enough. But without which, honest, I  wouldn't 
care, for one, for Grice's latter-day grand metaphysical  transubstantiations!
 
Cheers,
 
J. L. Speranza
 
 
 
**************Nothing says I love you like flowers! Find a florist near you 
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