[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
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.
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
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
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
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"!)
J. L. Speranza
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