[hist-analytic] Clarity Is Not Enough

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Sun Feb 15 19:53:19 EST 2009


Indeed, R. B. Jones's files _very_ impressive,  and I'm 'in the train of', as 
the French say, see if I can get a mailer which  allows me to sub-thread 
things. This in reply to Bayne in reply to  Jones:

In a message dated 2/15/2009 6:43:45 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
baynesrb at yahoo.com writes:
in saying that 
this sort of activity, to which  one's mortal life approximates, has this 
application: to bring about  happiness. 

----

It should also pay to revisit what H. H. Price  was _meaning_ when he said, 
"Clarity is not enough". Lewis used that as title of  his compilation, whose 
contents I have not been able to see. Apparently, it has  Price's reprinted. The 
quote by J. L. Austin I found elsewhere.

----  

Compilers to the Lewis book include: 

H H Price, C. D. Broad, B.  Blanshard, W. V.Quine, William Calvert Keale, 
A.C.Ewing, Max Black, Peter Heath,  E.Harris, ...

The Price piece is "Joint Session" Mind/Aristotelian  Society, for 1945 -- 
just when the dons were coming from the  trenches!

---

And Austin's quote is from "A plea for excuses"  (Aristotelian, 1956) -- 
after ten fruitful years, some say, of linguistic  botanising...

In his online notes on "Plea for Excuses" Jones  writes:

"In particular, since I doubt there is any limit to how long one  can 
continue this kind of investigation, I would be looking for some clues about  how 
much is enough, and when and how we reap the rewards. Austin shows no signs  of 
caring. He seems so fascinated by this kind of investigation that I doubt he  
would ever stop to ask whether there is any benefit beyond the discovery of  
further subtleties in language."

I love Jones's concerns about the  'enough'.

As my aunt would say, "More than enough is too much". And  surely some say 
the Austinians overdid it a bit!

"Enough" is a concept  that needs pleonetetic (I think it's the word Geach 
coined) treatment. We need a  'standard', or 'measure'. So 'clarity is enough' 
_is_ problematic, but so is  'clarity is _not_ enough'. 

Before I review Jones's considerations, I was  thinking that perhaps Price 
would be annoyed by someone  going:

A: Do you believe in the immortality of the  soul? Is there a life after life?
B: Define your terms!  That's hardly clear!
A: It _is_ pretty clear. Do you  believe that the mind is immortal?
B: You said  soul!
A: mind, say. Do you believe that when your body  rots, there's a soul
that --- oops  --- goes above and joins the featherly choir?
B: Don't be  disrespectful

-- A discussion like that may be a matter of 'clarity', but  it seems that 
the philosopher who is only an 'elucidator' may try to 'wash his  hands' from 
this one, and keep on focusing on clearing off the ground as a way  to _avoid_ 
giving the philosophical answer: (i) Yes, the soul is immortal, or  (ii) the 
soul is not immortal.

Grice had a student at Oxford, called  'Shropshire". Shropshire claimed to 
have proved the immortality of the soul  (Grice retells in "Aspects of 
Reasoning") by means of a syllogistic:

"if  you cut off a chicken's head, the chicken will run round the yard for a 
quarter  of an hour before dropping". 

----

As Grice notes, there are  various appeals for clarity here:

1. soul-dependency on the  body.

2. soul-dependency on the _part_ of the body in which soul is  'located'. 

3. Assumption -- false? that the soul is located in the  'head'. 

4. assumption that the soul is 'destroyed' if head rendered  inoperative by 
removal from the rest of the body.

5. What if the soul is  _not_ located in the 'head'?

6. In fact, the fact that the chicken 'runs  round the yard' _means_ the 
chicken is 'animated' by an 'anima',  soul.

There are further problems that need some further  'clarification':

7. Why assume that the chicken's soul is _immortal_  though, just because it 
is not located in the body?

8. Why assume that  what's good for the chicken applies to _humans_ too?

Grice notes that  Shropshire was a 'drop-out' from Oxford. And I wouldn't be 
surprised if it was  people like H. H. Price who dropped him!

----

Back to  Jones:


"In particular, since I doubt there is 
any limit to how  long one can continue this kind of investigation, ..."

I fear to state  this, because I do not be on Roger's _way_, but one anecdote 
that fascinated  from reading Warnock's "Saturday Mornings" (these dons 
smoked so much during  those mornings -- Warnock died of lung cancer, and Grice of 
emphysema). Warnock  recalls, "Yes, it was a matter of temperament; we could 
be _hours_ to no end  doing the linguistic botanising; these were informal 
meetings. Meeting with  Austin for a _serious_ seminar was an altogether 'harder'  
experience!"

-- but there is also the idea of 'personal loyalty  about yourself'. Grice 
did change, but Warnock remained the linguistic botaniser  to his latest!

Jones:

"I would be looking for some clues about how  much is enough"

Good point.

More than enough is too much. So much  I can tell.
In _my_ case, I'm never tired, because this is conducted in some  sort of 
English! Would find it pretty boring in my  vernacular!

----

Jones:

"and when and how we reap the  rewards. Austin shows no signs of caring. He 
seems so fascinated by this kind of  investigation that I doubt he would ever 
stop to ask whether there is any  benefit beyond the discovery of further 
subtleties in language."

-----  Well, behind that facade, there was a suffering man! He too died of 
cancer! And  he would not any other _don_ know about it. It really _was_ a shock 
to them all.  

But apparently, Austin dreamed of a 'science of language' (as fragments  of 
"Plea" testifies). Recall this is _ages_ ago! It was a parochial  attitude.

We should also recall that Austin was "White's professor of  moral 
Philosophy", so perhaps he thought that _that_ office (the higher ever  held by a member 
of the playgroup) was more than 'enough', and that he could  dedicate the 
rest of his time to enjoyable linguistic botanising. 

I'm  not familiar as to how Chairs Work in Oxford. Apparently, you don't have 
to  _attend_ them! But I would think he was enough of a 'bureaucrat' to see 
himself  as just that! The papers for the magazines (if magazines they can be 
called)  were more for the _fun_ of it.

Grice was not a professor at Oxford, just  a 'university lecturer', and 
whatever they thought was _enough_ or not enough  could vary with each student or 
tutee they had. I could imagine they having some  'thick' ones who could do 
with some 'clarity' in sufficient  quantities!

Cheers,

J. L.  

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