[hist-analytic] Davidson's Hume

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Sat May 23 21:37:58 EDT 2009

In a message dated 5/23/2009 12:19:48 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
baynesrb at yahoo.com writes:
Now the point we can derive from Donnellan's  distinction. ... Clearly, 
'the cause of b caused b' follows if it is true that a  caused b and the 
description 'the cause of b' obtains. But the problem, if it is  a problem, is 
that this is true only of the attributive employment of the  description. If we 
take the description 'the predecessor of b' as referential,  then it is a 
contingent fact that 'the predecessor of b preceded b'. The same  holds in 
the causal case, especially since we are speaking about singular  causation. 
... It is necessarily true that whatever preceded b was a predecessor  of b, 
but that *this* event or fact, etc. preceded b is not a necessary truth.  
Can we make this explicit using Donnellan's distinction. I am inclined to 
think  so, but we may need to appeal to some other notion.
I read B. Aune's objection with interest.

I still think S. Bayne's 'toying' (he'll like that) with Donnellan can  
lead _somewhere_.
It always struck me as 'contemporary' of Grice that when he submitted the  
"Vacuous Names" piece for "Words and Objections" (1969) he manages to quote 
from  Donnellan, with a caveat about pragmatics: are these 'uses' ... or 
what? In any  case, he develops a formal notation to take care of the two 
readings:  identificatory -- THE CAUSE -- and non-identificatory, 'the cause'.
His example is actually Marmaduke Blogg's haberdasher, as I recall.
One problem here may be the 'the' in 'the' cause. I do have a problem with  
the definite description per se:
B. Aune:
>Davidson does  
>make an error here.  The relevant  necessary conditional needs a  
>stronger antecedent, "If there is  one and only one cause of b."  This  
>antecedent allows us to  infer that the cause of b caused b.
For "C" being "... cause ..."
C(x, y)
and "CAUSANS"x being a is antecedent
      "CAUSATUM"x being x is effect
and how it connects with:
(Ex)Ax   & (z)Az --> z = x
'the one and only one cause'.
I like that.
But I think people are sometimes sloppy in their speech:
  "The cause of his madness is The Three Stooges"
I would say the three stooges caused the boy's madness, Tommy's  madness.
I would say that the cause is UNIQUE: the three stooges. Not _each_ of them 
 (Curly, Moe, Larry).
But yet I'd use something like a numerical quantifier
"(Ex3)", rather than the 'iota' operator to represent "the" in "the three  
stooges". The iota operator seems to be necessitated when the denotatum of 
the  definite description is just singular.
I suppose what B. Aune is having in mind is multiple causation, and also  
like Mill's 'generalisations', plus the idea that it should be a  
          The Falklands  War      caused    Argentina's return to  Democracy
but also:
          Alfonsin who  re-organised the structure of the political parties
and also:
         the general deterioration  of the military chiefs.
So, only in the case of 'one and onely one cause' seems to license  
Davidson's inference.
His point about the 'analyticity' of "the cause of E caused E" (where e  
stands for effect) sounds more harmless, though?
I agree that something more than a Donnellian 'stroke of the pen' (as Grice 
 calls this) is in order.
        "C caused E"
Grice's formula: "See if you can append, to "C", 'whatever that may be': if 
 you can, it's non-identificatory, if you can't it's otherwise"
       Then Martha, the maid, whoever she may  be, served us breakfast.
seems otiose in that "the maid" seems _referential_ and attributive. 
It seems Davidson is into circularities like:
            (to use  Grice's example of 'reasons' as causes' in "Aspects of 
                   the bridge collapsed.
           bad  manufacture:
           hurricane and  generally gusty winds
           overweight  bulls crossing it.
SOMETHING caused the collapse of the bridge.
The cause of the collapse of the bridge caused the collapse of the  bridge.
        "analytic", screams  Davidson.
"The cause of the collapse of the bridge could have been avoided."
BAYNE: "How? How can you avoid a hurricane?"
SPERANZA: I was meaning the heavy bulls.
AUNE: Manufacture. It's all malpractice.
Grice got so much into this that he started to consider what the OED has as 
 'woman's reason':
   (4)   The bridge collapsed because it  collapsed.
"analytic", and 'tautological'. But if "war is war" and "women are women"  
_are_ informative at the level of the implicature, so is (4): there's little 
we  can do about it -- and the culprit is possibly on his way to Rio anyway.
JL Speranza
**************Recession-proof vacation ideas.  Find free things to do in 
the U.S. 

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