[hist-analytic] Intention and Uncertainty

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Mon Jul 6 09:25:22 EDT 2009

The other day I was reading a newspaper cartoon. It went:

         LITTLE GIRL (to little  brother). Did you actually put a snake in
my  room?
LITTLE BROTHER. I  don't know!
         LITTLE GIRL (running away  in horror)  AAGGHHHH!
         FATHER appears.  Little Brother says to Father
              "My latest trick is uncertainty"


And let us recall that while Grice _is_ quoting Anscombe, his main thing
seems to be, as far as the title of his B. A. lecture goes, a reply (rumour
had  it) to Hart/Hampshire, "Intention and _Certainty_" (or words to that
effect) in  _Mind_. Indeed, I believe Grice (and Quinton) attended the seminar
which  originated the Hart/Hampshire essay -- should check with 'p.c.' here
and  there).

Well, I've just checked (by telephone, as it happens!) and it seems Grice
does not specifically refer to the shopping-list, but there we have.

The reference is on p. 8 of the British Academy reprint. This lecture by
Grice has been published in two formats:

The one I have is the separatum issued by the Clarendon Press, numbered 
1-... onwards, and the citation is on p. 8.

If you do quote the Proceedings of the British Academy, the citation should
 be different. Let me check.

vol. 57, pp. 263-279.

So, according to my arithmetic, in that version, the Anscombe quote should
be on p. 268. --


(Personally, I cannot see how you have to pay ten pounds sterling to get
the pdf.!).

It's enough to put you in a bad mode _contra_ Grice, but don't let _that_
happen. I can see if I can provide further quote (by telephone, if I get the
 person to dictate it to me) of the passage leading to the Anscombe quote.
The  person that is dictating to me cannot read "Greek" and Grice has just
referred  to something in Greek by Aristotle ("There are some Greek signs
here," she  said).

And then Grice writes (all emphasis mine)

            "This  point _may_ be (and *I think* _has_ been

             [Footnote 1 -- "1 By Professor Anscombe"])

             put vividly by saying that

            if a man  fails to fulfil an intention

            we do  not criticise his state of mind

            for  failing to conform to the facts,

            we  criticise the facts

            for  failing to conform to this

            state of  mind."

--- Not as vivid as the shopping-list example, but some running comments on
 Bayne below -- thanking him for sharing the list of contents of his
Anscombe  book with the list -- very interesting.


First some symbolism. In reflecting on the shopping list, I was reminded of
 some symbolism, which I think is 'cute'.

And which I use using Word word-processing, under 'insert symbol'. It's the
 downward arrow and the upward arrow. This has been used, I think, by
Searle in  his taxonomy of speech acts -- and later used by Searle/Vanderveken.
We would  have then




To use the shopping-list example

↑    for the shopping list proper.


↓    for the later check-up as to whether
       we 'shopped' the things in the  list.

Or to use Grice's example above (crediting Anscombe) for the  vividness.

↑     "a man fails to fulfil an intention"
          we "criticise the  facts for failing
          to conform to his  state of mind"

          but _

↓      we do _not_ "criticise his state
         of mind for failing to  conform to
         the facts."

Or again, in better rhetoric, to keep the ordering used by Grice:

         "a man fails to  fulfil his intention"

↓      "we do _not_ criticise his  state
of mind for failing to  conform to
the facts,"

          what we do  is

↑      "criticise the facts for  failing
to conform to  his state of mind"


I think this actually plays on some 'ambiguity' on 'fail' -- consider a man
 who fails to help himself -- or 'hisself' as I prefer! -- vis a vis S.
Bayne's  recent reply to M. Zeleny elsewhere --.

"a man fails to fulfil his intention"

may have a 'moral' shade to it, in which case we _may_ (go and) criticise
the _man_, if not the woman (sorry for the latter, couldn't resist vis a vis

re: the 'man':

I have elsewhere been criticised for having _quoted_ Grice's definition of

Grice, Logic and  Conversation:

   "A man who, by (in, when) saying (or making as if to say)
    that p has implicated that q, may be said to have  conversationally
implicated that q, provided that ..."
    (p.   ).

People do use 'fail' rather sloppily sometimes. And here we  may very well
have a case of what Grice has elsewhere called a  'disimplicature'.


          It's not that  I failed; I never _tried_.

I don't think it's good form to use 'fail' as it's ordinarily used, "A man
fails to fulfil an intention". -- "of his own", we expect. Surely to 'fail
to fulfil my mother's intention' seems a different animal altogether.

'fail' seems to get Grice 'disentangled' here.

I use 'disentangle' _technically_. When browsing the online Short/Lewis, I
noticed that the do have an entry for "inplicatura" sic with "n" -- and the
 reference being Sidonius (Loeb Classical Library). I checked with the
English  text, and it's translated as 'entanglement'. Thus, a 'disimplicature'
should be  a disentanglement, which makes sense (see my "Grice Disentangled"
--  elsewhere).

'fail' should mean, explicitly, the mere occurrence of the "~" operator --
and the use of the lexeme (cognate with 'fallacy' for example) is
rhetorical and  merely meant to improve the prose.

I think what Grice disimplicates here is the 'moral shade' to it. And so
his "a man fails to fulfil an intention" (and does not get criticised in his
'state of mind' -- i.e. in his intention proper) should read as:

      ~ (A man fulfils his intention).

--- Perhaps using "A" for agent, and "alpha" for action should make things
more explicit:

         ~(A fulfils his intention  to do alpha).

-- For in this case, we can mutatis mutandis apply it to the shopping  list.

He's looking for truffles (I've had them last Saturday and loved them). He
goes to the supermarket. Has them in his 'shopping list'. His intention is
to  buy truffles. But truffles are not for sale (sold out, not delivered,
etc.). So  surely we should criticise the retailer.

But _my mother_ would criticise the _man_ for he failed (she overuses this
word) to have a _proper_ intention, as she would call it, i.e. a reasonably
 fulfillable one (and she thinks truffles _are_ extravagant overrated sort
of  over-rotten French mushrooms, anyways [sic]).


Now, in "Aspects of Reason" Grice uses


for the 'assertoric' operator

----- (and cfr. Grandy's quessertion,  "┤ ?" -- or is it " ? ┤" --  cited
by Grice, WoW -- 'Meaning Revisited')



for the 'boulomaic' operator

-- the distinction by Aristotle that immediately precedes Grice's
reference to Professor Anscombe.

But while cute -- and indeed Grice has three operators,  ┤, !,  and ? --
but we can see the ? reductible to ! -- this fails to show the Fregean  point
so well discussed by Hare in his dissertation for Oxford -- Dictors.

As Hare notes, Frege uses


as a

complex sign: each of the strokes here is relevant.

--- while "!" (or ↑for that matter) would be _opaque_ in that respect:
i.e. it would fail to show the 'compositional' nature of the sign as first
conceived by Frege for the 'assertoric' operator.

Now for the commentary on Bayne:

In a message dated 2/28/2009 2:12:22 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
baynesrb at yahoo.com writes:

>Thanks for this, I knew I could count on you!

Thanks. I thought it was interesting that Grice (who belonged to this
generation of philosophers who would _NOT_ end their essays with long, academic
boring lists of references -- but have to do with the occasional footnote
here  and there --) cared to credit Anscombe, so it is a pleasure to provide
the quote  (and now page number) for anyone interested in Anscombe's
philosophy and how it  got received by her very own generation of Oxonian


>Just a couple of
>points. "I shall return" and make a couple of  other points, but
>my email is backing and...Anyway.
>The business  of the shopping list occurs in the context of
>distinguishes two  "knowledges" (the first plural use of
>'knowledge' I can recall seeing).

This is excellent. Indeed. I should recheck with Grice's Aristotelian Greek
 terms here. But if we are thinking of 'episteme', it _is_ idiosyncratic
(but  'very Anscombe') to use 'knowledge' in the plural.

>Recall that for Anscombe
>(and Wittgenstein) knowledge is  possible only where there
>is a distinction to be drawn between thinking  you know and
>seeming to know (p. 14).

I will -- I will recall. The other day I was telling a friend, "Recall
Richards, who says that what is otiose should not be false" -- and provided the
 OED quote, which I find brilliant:

   "Sometimes it is held that whatever is redundant or otiose,  whatever is
not required, although not obstructive or disruptive, is also  false."

           I. A. RICHARDS  Princ. Lit. Crit. (1925) 269 -- (I'm happy to
say that after my correspondence  with the Richards executor at Cambridge, John
           Constable,  Grice is now credited in the reprint of Richard,
Meaning and Meaning --

Anyway, this friend, on my recalling him Richards, wrote back,

         "No. The damage has been  done long ago" (or words to that effect)
-- playing on 'recall' as used in  Comercialese. I felt offended by failing
to see the implicature, and promised  myself never again to use 'recall'.


But I suppose I can be recalled that I have to distinguish between

  I seem to know.


  I think I know.


The distinction seems to be that 'seem' is hardly propositional as 'think'
is? Grice discusses 'factives' in WoW "Presupposition and Conversational
Implicature", google books.

Using an example,

   "He seemed to know the answer alright"
 i      i.e. "He seemed to know that  Jamestown was founded by John Smith"

   "He thought he knew the answer alright"
ii      i.e. "He thought he knew that Jamestown  was founded by John Smith".

In i, with "seem", we not need ascribe any propositional attitude to the
alleged 'knower' other than 'know' itself, which we do not assert, hence the
cancellability of i as iii

iii    He seemed to know that Jamestown was founded by John  Smith,
          and it turned out  that he was right and actually Knew that
             as  it happens Jamestwon WAS founded by John Smith.

ii, on the other hand, ascribes to the 'knower' a previous propositional
atittude of 'belief'. And the cancellability should yield differently:

iv    He thought he knew that Jamestown was founded by John  Smith,
      and as it turned out, he was perfectly  right in so thinking because
      Jamestown _was_ founded by John  Smith.


>Now in Section 32 part of the
>point is to distinguish observable  knowledge and knowledge
>"in intention." This distinction was necessitated  by the
>requirement that the relevant "Why?" question  distinctive
>in its applicability to cases of intention was  distinguishable
>from other senses, particularly where 'involuntary'  entails
>an understanding of intention. In these cases we can't
>evade the "Why?" question by pleading an involuntary act.

I see. I do look forward to your book. You've done some excellent work in
disentangling Anscombe, too!


>The main point has to do with the relation of mistakes
>or the  possibility of being mistaken in relation to two
>kinds of knowledge,  suggesting two kinds of mistakes. These
>two kinds are illustrated,  respectively, by the detective
>and the shopper. Direction of fit, if it  pertains, is
>alluded to in the relation of following the list as  ordered
>and making up the list. We can ignore this,  momentarily,
>although I think it is important in deciding a number  of

I see. I should explore the 'detective' scenario more closely, notably vis
a vis this 'vividness' that Grice ascribes to Anscombe:

       "a man fails to fulfil his  intention"

↓      "we do _not_ criticise his  state
of mind for failing to  conform to
the facts,"

          what we do is

↑      "criticise the facts for  failing
to conform to  his state of mind"

--- Suppose it's Miss Marple (a woman, rather than a man) -- written by a
woman, Agatha Christie.

The detective has the intention to prove that the murderer was Lady  Astley.

Now, if the murdered was the Butler -- then Miss Marple fails to fulfil her

Personally, I would criticise Miss Marple for _having_ the intention in the
 first place. She should have stuck, as veritable detectives should, to 
_observable knowledge_, and she was "mistaken" (in having the intention).

Certainly I would not criticise Lady Astley for having failed to conform to
 the detective's state of mind.

--- I'm trying to recall the name of this Lady in this Penny Dreadful, but
fail. (There's a DVD of it).


>I notice that the Grice essay you mention is from the
>British  Academy. The are VERY understanding on copyright,
>very good, indeed! If I  can get the citation, I'll put it
>on hist-analytic at some point in the  future.

Okay. So far, without my rhetoric, it would go:

     "The point may be (and this has been 1 (*1 By  Professor
     Anscombe)) put vividly by saying that if a  man
     fails to fulfil an intention we do not criticse  his
     state of mind for failing to conform to the  facts,
     we criticise the facts for failing to conform to  his
     state of mind."   (p. 268)

                Grice, 'Intention and Uncertainty'
                    Proceedings of the British Academy.
                     57. 263-279.  (p.

>I'll take a look at what else you've had to say, soon,

Thanks. Take your time. I should paste here your list of contents for
further examination, but one thing at a time. I loved the specificness of the
table of contents. And all my support and morale for your undertaking.

Yes, I do think that "Intention and Uncertainty" should be compiled in a
collection of Grice, "Philosophical Papers" -- to be published by Clarendon,
of  course! (just joking) and which should include not just "Intention and
Uncertainty" but his "Vacuous Names", "Actions and Events" (PPQ 1986),
Aristotle  on the multiplicity of being (PPQ 1988), Akrasia (in
Vermazen/Hintikka),  'Metaphysics' (in Pears, The nature of metaphysics), and a few other
gems from  his unpublications filling 13 'big cardboard boxes' at Bancroft
Library  (UC/Berkeley). I cannot think of any other philosopher who has been so
careful  in_keeping_ drafts of things. Chapman notes that Grice kept essays
he wrote  while he was still living in Holborne, Warwickshire -- and that
would be when he  was in his early 20s. -- To think that he kept those drafts,
and took them from  Oxford to Berkeley when he moved _is_ moving. He also
hoped that someone should  transcribe the tapes he kept of his seminars in
metaphysics, etc. We should fund  an "H. P. Grice Memorial Trust", or


J. L. Speranza

     (we may retain the header, since, while Grice did  not then refer to
the shopping list itself, he does use the expression,  googlebooks, in his
"Metaphysics and Philosophical Eschatology") when he lists  the things that
eschatology should provide!)


For easy ref. 'Table of Contents' of Bayne, _Anscombe_

--- begin quoted text (c) S. R. Bayne:

_Understanding Intention: Elizabeth Anscombe's Philosophical Psychology_.



  1:  ‘Prediction’, ‘Intention’, and ‘Intentional’
2:  Prediction, Commands and the “Falsity” of Expressions of Intention.
3:  Expressions of Intention, Prediction and Talking  Leaves.
4:  The Agent as Sole Authority in Knowledge of  Intentions


  5:  “…A Certain Sense of the Question ‘Why?”
6:   Intentional ‘Under a Description’
a.  Anscombe’s Later Discussion of ‘Under a  Description’
b. Davidson’s Use of ‘Under  a Description’
c. The Intentionality of  Sensation
d. Anscombe’s Criticism of  Davidson on Agency
e. Davidson on Tying  One’s Shoes ‘Under a Description’
7:  The Involuntary
8:  Non-Observational Knowledge
a.  Donnellan on ‘Knowing What I Am Doing’
9:  A Difficult  Distinction Based on Causation
10: Introducing Mental Causes
11: Mental  Causes are neither Intentions nor Desires
13: Backward Looking Motives and  Motives-In-General
14: Mental Causes and Backward-Looking Motives
15:  Mental Causes or Reasons?


16: “I Don’t Know Why I Did It”
17: “I Don’t Know Why I Did It”  (Continued)
18: When the Answer to the Question ‘Why?’ Makes No Sense
19:  What Makes an Action Intentional?
20: Non-Forward Looking Intentional  Actions
21: Chains Consisting of Actions


22: ‘Acting with the Intention That’
23: Whether an Intentional Action  has a Unique Description as Such
24: Individuating Actions
25:  Identifying Intentional Actions
26: How Many Actions are There?
27: Acts  of Intending and the Presumption of Their  Efficacy
a. Intentional Acts  of Creation
28: Observational Knowledge of Intentions, Again
29: I Do What  Happens
30: Against the Idea of Intentions as Initiating Causes of  Action
31: Knowledge of Intention is not Like Our Knowledge of  Commands
32: Lists and Two Kinds of Error: Introducing Practical Wisdom


33: Aristotle’s Practical Syllogism
34: Wants and Practical  Reasoning
35: Wanting as the Starting Point of a Practical  Syllogism
a. Actions as  processes
b. Wants not Included in a Practical  Syllogism
c. Incontinence and the Division of  Responsibility
d. The Difference between  Theoretical and Practical Syllogisms
36: Wanting and Its Place in  Reasoning

--- end of quoted text. (c) S. R. Bayne

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