[hist-analytic] Robbing Peter To Pay Paul

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Sun Apr 5 11:10:43 EDT 2009


In a message dated 4/5/2009 9:38:52 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
aune at philos.umass.edu writes:
I want to add two points to this note.   The first is that Fred Sommers, who 
used to teach at Brandeis University (he is  now retired from there), has long 
defended Aristotelian logic against the  Fregean charge that it is inherently 
incapable of expressing the full range of  assertions that Frege’s logic can 
express.  I am not familiar with Sommer’s  work on this subject, but it does 
deserve looking into.  Perhaps he has  suggestions that might partially 
rehabilitate Kant.  (Some information on  Sommers’ thinking can be found at 
www.formalontology.it/sommersf.html  .)
-----
 
 
I don't know why I'm titling this like this -- but hey!
 
I did have a look at the _huge_ volume by Sommers -- ed. by J. Jonathan  
Cohen, defunct now, in the Clarendon Series in Logic and Philosophy. I was able  
to find the book in a (_the_) philosophy bookshop in Argentina -- This  
bookseller would order _two_ copies of each book, and I wonder who else in  Buenos 
Aires was interested in Sommers.
 
I did look at the index and there's lots of Strawson -- and one _Grice_!  
Sommers' point being that he'd seen Grice doing formalism like that!
 
So that's why I'm rehabilitating the polemic.
 
In a historic-analytic perspective. One reads Strawson's 'seminal'  
Introduction to Logical Theory and one sees _loads_ of Aristotelianism (if not  
Kantianism). And one wonders. Strawson's "Preface" credits the tutorials with  Grice 
-- in the late 1930s -- and their joint seminars in the 1940s. This was  
before Quine's visit to Oxford, I expect. 
 
But there's not just that acknowledgment in the "Preface" to "Mr. H. P.  
Grice from whom I never ceased to learn logic since he was my tutor in that  area" 
but a rather more extended one regarding the very 'implicatures' of things  
like 'all' and 'some' -- Aristotelian logical words _par_ excellence. 
 
When one sees discussions of Grice one sees him labelled as a  
'truth-functionalist' but of course that's slightly narrowing. He was a  
'truth-functionalist' when it came to:
 
    negation -- the monadic operator.
 
    conjunction
    disjunction
 
Even when it came to 'material conditional' he has caveats regarding 'if'.  
He allows that some uses of 'counterfactual' 'if' (i.e. 'non-conditional' if)  
may not be amenable to truth-functional analysis.
 
And then if you _hear_ to the list of his formal devices -- at the  beginning 
of WOW iii it's not just sentential operators like that, but he goes  on to 
mention, 'all' (or 'every'), 'some' (in logician's garb, 'at least one')  and 
'the'. 
 
Oddly, he never elaborates on these topics in WOW, really. Although he does  
expand on 'the' in Presupposition and Conversational Implicature, and on 'one' 
 (which should be translated as '(Ex)' -- I broke one finger +> my own.
 
----
 
In the "Retrospective Epilogue" (strand 6 I think) he goes on to relabel  
Strawson's 'informalism' as a 'neo-traditionalism'. Echoes of Strawson's  
neo-Aristotelian reactionary position (cfr. Sommers or Burton-Roberts in  
linguistics) are more evident. 

Grice is seeing himself though as having  one foot on each camp: one foot 
with Strawson's informalist/neotraditionalist --  and I'll add Neo-Aristotelian 
-- approach, and one foot with the 'formalist' --  that he later lablels 
'modernist' -- heirs of Principia Mathematica -- and I'll  add "Fregean" proper 
approach.
 
I see that L. Horn has work on this -- where he credits me! (:)). He calls  
these things F-implicatures. No, not your expletive deleted. He means plain "F" 
 Frege. But his focus is mainly on the similarities between the Grice of the  
conventional implicature and the Frege (hardly discussed) of the 'colour' 
(Farb)  and the 'tone'. 
 
Robbing Peter to Pay Paul apparently emerged as an idiom, can you believe  
it, not to refer to Paul Grice and Peter Strawson, but to St. Peter and St.  
Paul, the former being the real name of Westminster and the other the  
monstrosity of Christopher Wrenn.
 
But what I mean is hardly different. On a seminar with Gregorio Klimovsky,  
where I managed to impress him, I titled my contribution, "Post-Modern Grice"  
(in Buenos Aires you _have_ to use 'post-modern' to get the minimum degree of  
attention from non-analytic audiences). What I meant was a discussion of 
Grice's  "common mistake".
 
It's not that Grice _makes_ it, the mistake. He says both Fregeans and  
Aristotelians make it! He rather discovers it. Everytime he plays the logical  game 
and gets irritated by how logicians are blind enough to the 'landscape'  that 
ordinary-language so beautifully paints for us!
 
But one can say: surely Peter (Strawson) does not diminish the florid  
'landscape' of ordinary language. Well, no; but like Cohen, and so many others,  he 
turns the floridness into the _semantic_ component when it's much better to  
keep a neo-classical lawn and maintain the floridity to the backgarden of  
pragmatics (Everyone familiar with what's regarded as the best backgarden in  
Oxford -- Grice's St John's -- may agree with the sentiment! (I hope)). 
 
So, one _robs_ Peter Strawson -- and his acute observations on the logic of  
ordinary language -- rehabiliating Aristotelian distinctions and schemes -- 
but  one _pays_ the Gardener, Grice, who likes to proceed prolixically with  
linguistic botanising proper.
 
Consider 'truth-value gaps'. Horn wrote on this "Showtime at Truth-Value  
Gap" (he tells me it's a pun on an obscure American western). Apparently,  
Sommers, Strawson, Burton-Roberts, and Aristotle ('there will be a naval battle  
tomorrow') think it's a cute notion. Grice says instead, "the crunch comes with  
negation" (_Aspects of Reason_). Admitting a gap, it means the gap will  
_survive_ negation, and then negation becomes inoperative, and then the skies  may 
fall.
 
I don't know about truth-certification, that B. Jones was asking about, but  
gaps arise in not just 'negation' talk, but in talk about so-called 
'knowledge'  and 'truth-certification'. To have a truth-certified idea of knowledge 
means  that one deals with the oddity of things like:
 
    Peter does not know that the Gap was founded in  1996.
 
                    (* "The Gap" (c) -- clothes)
 
 
Obviously, the truth-certification is cancelled in some cases:
 
    "Peter does not know that the Gap was founded in 1996,  because it 
wasn't; it was founded in 1998".
 
But what about uses of 'know' in the affirmative? What kind of relation  
holds between 'know that p' and 'p is true'. Grice says: 'entailment' proper.  
Sometimes I feel that since Grice was proud of having coined a pretty popular  
term, 'implicature' he felt it was never bad to credit Moore (who _was_ his man) 
 for having coined one which if not as popular is perhaps just as pretty. 
(I'm  using pretty to annoy Fowler, "The King's English"!)
 
Cheers,
 
J. L. Speranza 
    
 
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