[hist-analytic] Reductive vs. Reductionist Analysis

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Fri Feb 13 11:55:10 EST 2009


In Reply To: R. B. Jones, "Re: Reductive vs. Reductionist Analysis"
 
In a message dated 2/13/2009 11:06:01 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
rbj at rbjones.com writes:

>In response to Speranza pn the above twp questions come to my  mind:
>1. Is this a usage which Grice is coining?
>2. Do we have any  reason to believe that the distinction he
>  draws is absolute  (objective)
>The latter question because definite notions of type are  confined
>surely to certain formal languages, they differ on whether or  how
>types are assigned, and different formal translations of  natural
>languages in to formal languages are therefpre likely to  yield
>different answers to questions about whether an analysis  is
>reductionist or reductive.
>Perhaps, as one deeply interested in  the intricacies of natural
>languages you might be able to comment on  whether there is anything
>like a rule for the use of the endings (or  whatever they are called)
>"tionist" and "tive" on the same root?
 
-----
 
I am able to reply more or less in a rush, thanks to Dr. Dale's good idea  of 
having his PhD (NYU -- under Schiffer) online! He quotes the excellent  
passage from Grice's 'Valediction':
 
Dale notes:
 
"Grice answers in the following way J. Jack who Grice reports as 
having "reproved" him for attempting reductive analyses of 
semantic notions."
 
The passage:
 
    "But what *kind* of analysis is to be provided? 
     What I think we cannot agree to allow her [J.  Jack] 
     to do is to pursue the goal of giving 
     a *lax* REDUCTIVE ANALYSIS of meaning,  [i.e.], 
     a reductive analysis which is unhampered by 
     the constraints which characteristically attach to 
     reductive analysis, like the avoidance of  circularity.... 
     (In this connection I should perhaps observe that 
     though my earlier endeavors in the theory of  meaning 
     were attempts to provide a REDUCTIVE ANALYSIS, 
     I have never (*I think*) espoused reductionism, 
     which to my mind involves 
 
                the idea that semantic 
         concepts are  unsatisfactory or even 
         unintelligible, 
 
                      *unless* they can be provided with 
 
         interpretations in terms  of some predetermined, 
         privileged, and favored  array of concepts; 
 
         in this sense of  "reductionism" a felt ad hoc 
         need for REDUCTIVE  ANALYSIS does not have 
         to rest on a reductionist  foundation. 
 
          Reductive analysis  might be called for to get away 
          from unclarity  not to get to some predesignated clarifiers"
 
 
Dale is arguing with Avramides -- and Schiffer indeed read the book,  
Avramides's, in the galleys, as they put it --. Avramides wants to say that it's  not 
'clear' if Grice is providing a 'reduction' and if so, what kind. 
 
The "I think" which Grice brackets ("I have never (I think) espoused  
reductionism") leads Dale to recall a passage where pilgrim Grice finds himself  in 
the road to the Holly of Hollies:
 

"As I thread my way unsteadily along the  tortuous mountain 
      path which is supposed to lead, in the long  distance, to the City of 
      Eternal Truth, I find myself beset by a  multitude of demons and 
       perilous places, bearing names like  Extensionalism, Nominalism, 
       Positivism, Naturalism, Mechanism,  Phenomenalism, Reductionism, 
       Physicalism, Materialism,  Empiricism, Scepticism, and Functionalism. 
       ... After a more tolerant (permissive)  middle age, I have come to 
        entertain strong opposition to  *all of them*, 
       perhaps partly as a result of the  strong connection between a number 
       of them and the philosophical  technologies which used to appeal 
       to me a good deal more than they do  now"
                   ("The Life and Opinions of Paul Grice", by Paul Grice). 
 
Dale comments: "Though this passage does suggest that he, when writing it,  
was against some sort of reductionism, it also strongly suggests that earlier 
in  his life he supported it."
 
Now back to R. B. Jones's queries:
 
 
>In response to Speranza pn the above twp questions come to my  mind:
>1. Is this a usage which Grice is coining?


Revising his words we see that 'reductionist analysis' was indeed _my_  
coining! Grice would go as far as to refer to a 'reductive analysis' (non-lax,  if 
you wish) _simpliciter_ and one which 'rest[s] on a reductionist  foundation'.
 
 
>2. Do we have any reason to believe that the distinction  he
>  draws is absolute (objective)
 
Well, that _I_ draw, rather. Sorry about that!
 

>The latter question because definite notions of type are  confined
>surely to certain formal languages, they differ on whether or  how
>types are assigned, and different formal translations of  natural
>languages in to formal languages are therefore likely to  yield
>different answers to questions about whether an analysis  is
>reductionist or reductive.
 
Well, this is interesting; especially as it relates o connects to Grice's  
expansion on what kind of a non-lax reductive analysis which _does_ rest on a  
reductionist foundation would look like. Although he is talking of _semantic_  
notions, allow me to apply the issue to the apparent divergence in _meaning_  
(semantic notion, after all) between, say, the formal 'horseshoe' and  'if'.
 
In the opening two paragraphs of "Logic and Conversation" he propounds a  
sort of caricature for what a 'formalist' would look like. He would claim that  
there _is_ a divergence between 'horseshoe' and 'if'. Plus, the divergence  
entails a surplus of meaning on the side of 'if'. Further, this surplus is  
dubbed, in the lips of Grice's 'formalist' as a "metaphysical excrescence". This  
is no good for the formalist, so he will _reduce_ 'if' to the 'horseshoe' --. 
It  is under this reduction that the 'unless' clause in Grice's fragment 
applies,  when he says:
 
         *unless* they can be  provided with 

interpretations in terms of some predetermined,  
privileged, and favored  array of concepts; 


In the case of 'horseshoe' the predetermined, privileged, favoured array of  
concept is the simple truth table!
 
    p   )   q
 
    1   1   1
    0   1   1
    1   0   0
    0   1   0
 
So any idea that there's a 'semantic' notion beyond this -- a 'metaphysical  
excrescence' which we can define in terms of 'some obscure connection of some  
sort of causal type or other' -- is _eliminated_.
 
When it comes to analysis of 'meaning' _per se_, it is harder to find an  
illustration, but surely those (or 'them', I'm tempted to say, to show off my  
provincialism) 'neutral monists' out there -- for which "meaning" _kaput_!
 
R. B. comments:

>Perhaps, as one deeply interested in the  intricacies of natural
>languages you might be able to comment on whether  there is anything
>like a rule for the use of the endings (or whatever  they are called)
>"tionist" and "tive" on the same root?
 
---- I wish!
 
I could try the OED!

I wish I could quote Cicero himself (or 'hisself', again), but I doubt  he 
thought _that_ term (or pair of them) was philosophically relevant. 
 
Indeed, people overuse suffixes, and what's bad for a suffix is usually bad  
for the other. I dislike people who wish to say that while they 
'discriminate',  they are not 'discriminatory' but 'discriminating'. Same 
[four-letter-word], I  say!
 
reductio
 
should be a formation from 're-' (prefix) plus some variant of 'duc-ere',  
which would be 'to lead' (I know this because Mussolini wanted to _lead_, il  
Duce). 
 
'reductivus' sounds like a good adjective, I mean, well formed.  'reductivus, 
reductiva, reductivum', if you must.
 
But 'reductionist'? I dislike '-isms'. I thought Grice referred to those  
perils as 'betes noires', and I think he does. But the problem is that they are  
-isms! I dislike _all_ isms, starting with Post-Modernism!* (*Oddly, just to  
tease my tutor, Gregorio Klimovsky, when I presented my views on Grice on the  
vernacular logic, I called Grice a 'post-modern' in that he wasn't really a  
Russellian 'modernist'; for Grice, indeed, Russellians do commit the mistake 
of  thinking that _there_ is a divergence, while Grice saves the phenomena with 
the  aid of Conversational Implicature, or "Miss Conversational Implicature" 
if you  must.
 
I am inclined to believe that '-ism' was in Old Latin, '-ismus'. So we need  
to trace 'Reductionismus', and then form 'reductionist'. Now 'reductionistus,  
reductionista, reductionistum' does not make sense -- it's ill-formed. So 
what  can we do about that. Is '-ista' a good suffix? 
 
I'm in a rush now, but the OED notes that -ista is from the Greek, and  
indeed good Latin, but when it comes to forming Adjectives, it mainly lists,  other 
-ist adjectives: devotionalist, externalist, fatalist, formalist,  humanist, 
idealist, imperialist, loyalist, materialist, naturalist, nominalist,  
opportunist, pluralist, positivist, purist, rationalist, realist, royalist,  
socialist, universalist. So one would need to see in which way 'reductionist'  relates 
to the activity of 'reducere'. 

About the English 'reduce' indeed, the OED has an interesting note that  
relates to R. B. Jones's notes on 'natural' versus 'formal' languages. Nothing  
procrustean about them:
 
OED: 
 
"The original [Latin] sense of the word, [reducere] ‘to bring back’, has  
now almost entirely disappeared, the prominent modern sense being 
 
           ‘to bring  down’ or 
          ‘to diminish’. 
 
[Grice would have enjoyed that!]
 
"A clear arrangement of the various uses (many of them found only in the  
language of the 15-17th centuries) is rendered difficult by the extent to which  
the different shades of meaning tend to pass into or include each other."
 
Cheers,
 
J. L. 
 
 
**************Nothing says I love you like flowers! Find a florist near you 
now. (http://yellowpages.aol.com/search?query=florist&ncid=emlcntusyelp00000002)



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