[hist-analytic] Davidson's Hume

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Sun May 24 09:12:36 EDT 2009

"I still think S. Bayne's 'toying' (he'll like that) with Donnellan can 
lead _somewhere_." 

Actually 'toy' is a very interesting words in contexts such as 
'real good toy' where 'real' is either syncategorematic or not. 
'toy guns' are one thing, 'toy balloons' are another; there is a 
complex semantics to this. Anyway, the point I was trying to 
make on Donnellan was the best part of my post, I think. 
Consider the question; "Is there a non-trivial sense to the 

'The cause of b caused b'? 

I think there is only one way of making it non-trivial. We must 
view 'the cause of b' in such a way that it may refer even if 
the event referred to is not the cause of b, much like 
'the man standing in the corner with a martini' even where 
the man only appears to be in the corner of the room (mirrors) 
and is drinking water. My use here is the best way to capture 
the meaning of the sentence when we are engaged in discussing 
singular causation. I suspect that this issue is, actually, an issue 
we owe Melden - who spoke out eloquently against a Humean 
approach based largely on how descriptions can be "logically" 
related. More on that later. I think Melden is who Davidson is 
addressing. Anscombe addresses Melden's point (Free-Action) 
but never mentions his name. He is rarely cited but his presence 
is clear from the issues, issues such as the difference between 
happenings and doings. Let me end the digression by saying 
that Donnellan's distinction *might* (I don't know) be a way of 
getting around certain claims by "regularity" theorists in the theoy 
of causation. Davidson steers a middle course here between 
guys like Ducasse and Russell. 



----- Original Message ----- 
From: Jlsperanza at aol.com 
To: hist-analytic at simplelists.co.uk 
Sent: Saturday, May 23, 2009 6:37:58 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific 
Subject: Re: Davidson's Hume 

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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