[hist-analytic] Metaphysics: Grice, Carnap, Aristotle

Roger Bishop Jones rbj at rbjones.com
Fri May 1 07:45:43 EDT 2009

I was interested to see Speranza getting into Gricean Metaphysics a little
while ago, and would have been interested to hear more about it.
Unfortunately my notes on WOW don't cover the metaphysics, and I
don't actually posess a copy or have convenient access even to
a library which contains it.

I did google for Grice's metaphysics and didn't find much,
but the Stanford Encyclopaedia had a nice quote on ontology,
from which:

    My taste is for keeping open house for all sorts
    of conditions of entities, just so long as
    when they come in they help with the housework.
    Provided that I can see them work, and provided that
    they are not detected in illicit logical behaviour
    (within which I do not include a certain degree of indeterminacy,
    not even of numerical indeterminacy), I do not find them queer
    or mysterious at all….
    To fangle a new ontological Marxism, they work therefore they exist,
    even though only some, perhaps those who come on the recommendation
    of some form of transcendental argument, may qualify for
    the specially favoured status of entia realissima.
    To exclude honest working entities seems to me like metaphysical
    snobbery, a reluctance to be seen in the company of any but
    the best objects (1975, 30-31).

Which is quite as liberal as Carnap in some ways (though Carnap
would not call these metaphysical).  More liberal in appearing
to allow the use of the word "metaphysical" in circumstances which
Carnap would allow the ontology but not the word.  More liberal
also in contemplating the possibility of "transcendental arguments"
which might confer some special status beyond pragmatic convenience.

Speranza wandered into Gricean metaphysics at a time when
my "triple dichotomy" mongraph project was transmuting into
a "Metaphysical Positivism" book project (which is not so big
a change as one might think).  This change is now reflected
at RBJones.com.

In WOW there does not seem to be a lot of metaphysics, and it is
coupled with semantics.  The identification of analyticity and
necessity is one way of making such a coupling (for at least
some kinds of metaphysics) quite definite, for the key to this
identification is in understanding that a full truth conditional
semantics incorporates, because the domain of the truth conditions
is the collection of possible worlds, metaphysical presuppositions
embedded into the language.  For Carnap these are "external
questions" to be determined on pragmatic grounds (at least
for artificial languages) but we may wonder whether there are
fundamental issues at stake which it might be pragmatic
to recognise in our languages.


Before I drift off too far the point of this message was
really to say that one of the side effects of Speranza's
message (believe it or not!) was to provoke me into knocking
up a new hypertext edition of Aristotle's Metaphysics.
This is based on the Ross translation which I got from the
internet classics archive and its main merit (if it has any)
is that like my Organon it is more finely chopped, and has
part indexes which give you the first line of every paragraph.
Also, the intention is that every book and part has a helpful
title (supplied by me), though unfortunately I never completed
this task for the Organon and have so far only done (titles for)
the first five books of the Metaphysics.

The Metaphysics can be found at:


Roger Jones

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