[hist-analytic] "The Shopping List": Grice on Ascombe

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Wed Jun 24 09:12:52 EDT 2009


You make some interesting points on direction of fit. Searle has had 
some, rather, interesting things to say on this. Performance errors 
as opposed to errors in belief are, certainly, are key ideas. But the 
idea of fitting may be less general in some instances. Consider a 
class of cases which I think, so far, have gone unnoticed. 

Suppose we distinguish 'descipta' and 'descriptions', saying that, say, 
'heavy' is a description and an elephant might be a descriptum. 
The elephant MAY "fall under" the description 'heavy'; but since 
a feather is not heavy, we might want to say that whether something 
is correctly said to be heavy depends on the descriptum: "It was 
heavy for a feather, but not heavy for an elephant." Here there is 
"direction of fit" in some sense where the direction runs from 
descriptum to description; the description's applicability is 
relative to the descriptum. But now take another case. 

Davidson says that an action is intentional relative to a 
description. There is no natural class of intentional acts; 
what counts as such an act is, then, relative to a description. 
The "direction" of fit is just the opposite of the first case; in 
THIS case the direction of fit runs from description to descriptum. 
Now whether "direction" of fit is a desirable locution may be 
debated, but there is a "direction" to each of these two sorts 
of dependency. 

So my claim is this: "direction of fit" applies to descriptions and 
not, merely, speech acts, etc. 



----- Original Message ----- 
From: Jlsperanza at aol.com 
To: hist-analytic at simplelists.co.uk 
Sent: Monday, June 22, 2009 6:35:13 AM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific 
Subject: "The Shopping List": Grice on Ascombe 

In a message dated 6/22/2009 9:17:33 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, 
Baynesr at comcast.net writes: 
By the way, I'm going to be mentioning Grice. Do you 
remain firm in your belief that there is little connection, either 
historically or "structurally"?---- 


I would. I don't think I have the passage exactly to hand. But Grice does 
seem to quote Anscombe only tangentially in the first page of his "Intention 
and Uncertainty" (Proc. of the Brit. Academy, separata issued by the 
Clarendon Press, 1971). 

His example was Anscombe's 'shopping list' -- in Intention (1959), which 
has more to do with 'direction of fit' (Austin's term): 'the shopping list' 
before the shopping has a ARROW-UP direction of fit (let's get fruit salad, 
bread, milk, eggs, etc.). Once the shopping is done, it has ARROW-DOWN 
(let's check if we got the fruit salad, the bread, the milk, the eggs, etc.) So 
nothing extraordinarily supercalifragilistiespeallidouceously 

I tend to think that the "Play Group" to which Grice belonged was more into 
S. N. Hampshire's "Thought and Action" which had appeared two years after 

Grice's own thoughts on action and intention are pretty conservative and 
trace back: 

-- historically, to Prichard -- seeing that J. O. Urmson, a playgroupy, 
had edited Prichard's basic writings on 'willing' for Clarendon. 

-- non-historically: to discussions with, of all people, (he mentions) 
(i) James 
Thomson (I have not bee able to find a trace of what Thomson may say 
about the philosophy of action -- but Grice cites him as having 
in 'joint' work with him in that area in "Life and Opinions of Paul 
googlebooks, PGRICE) and (ii) D. F. Pears. Grice cites Pears at the 
of Intention and Uncertainty which had started by citing Anscombe. 

Grice would of course occasionally quote from _Philosophical 
Investigations_ by Witters, as tr. by Anscombe, so that may count as a 

The Oxford years of Anscombe are interesting and I wouldn't know much about 
it. What I was surprised to see when I was in Oxford was how _separated_ 
from the whole rest Somerville (College) is, which has given us so many true 
Griceans like Anita Avramides (via Julie M. Jack) -- the other great 
Gricean female hailing from Oxford -- Nuffield College has to be Deirdre Susan 
Moir Wilson. 

Oddly, Grice seems to have had more of a contact with Iris Murdoch. I seem 
to remember that the lady contributed to the same volume that Grice 
contributed: "The nature of metaphysics", ed. by D. F. Pears --. If this was a 
Third Programme for the BBC, I often wondered if the whole lot had to make it 
to London (BBC House), or would they just bring the microphones to the Gown? 
"Anscombe used the example of a shopping list to illustrate the difference 
(see Intention (1957), par.32). The list can be a straightforward 
observational report of what is actually bought (thereby acting like a cognitive 
state), or it can function as a conative state such as a command or desire, 
dictating what the agent should buy. If the agent fails to buy what is 
listed, we do not say that the list is untrue or incorrect; we say that the 
mistake is in the action, not the belief." 

J. L. Speranza 
**************Make your summer sizzle with fast and easy recipes for the 
grill. (http://food.aol.com/grilling?ncid=emlcntusfood00000004) 
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