[hist-analytic] Grice, Lectures on Intention and Trying (Brandeis)

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Sun Jul 12 12:10:44 EDT 2009

In a message dated 7/12/2009 9:53:31 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
baynesrb at yahoo.com writes:
>This book is going to press soon, so I've 
>got to get the  citations and credits down exactly right. So I'll go back
>and collect 
And recall, it's NOT definitive! Some of my quotes refer to 'conversations' 
 or 'unpublished' work so you shouldn't worry. You have done more than your 
 share! Just a _mention_ of Grice would have interested readers heading in 
the  right direction. You don't have to supply _every_ step in *that* 
direction! And  recall that people will be reading _you_! It's what _you_ say or 
write that  matters! -- 
>I thought I'd enter one comment here. You mention Grice on "trying"; 
Yes. I'm not sure, but I think the reference, which you SHOULDN'T Have in  
your references section would be:
Grice, "Lectures on Trying". Princeton, 1961.
--- They are cited in "The unpublications of H. P. Grice" in Grandy/Warner, 
 PGRICE. Oxford: Clarendon. I _SEEM_ to remember a discussion of an example 
or  two.
    'try' seems indeed a very different 'animal'
          'trying to jump the  wall', is I think Grice's example.
--- AND it's again discussed in "Prolegomena" in WoW (1967), vis a vis, I  
think to remember, H. L. A. Hart -- will check this 'Prolegomena'  reference.
              the implicature that
                     "He tried to do it"
                                 but did not succeed
 WRONG: It may be otiose (but still true) to say, "He tried to do it,  and 
indeed succeeded"
--- I'll try to get the Nowell-Smith reference correct. He is a genius,  
Nowell-Smith, and he himself edited a little list of his publications, and he  
has WONDERS scattered here and there: some in the philosophy of action, on  
'choosing' and 'doing'.
And then, I was thinking, this leads us to the LIBERTARIAN problem posed by 
 Strawson with
                 "I resent that p"
(Freedom and Resentment that Grice adored -- and quotes in a footnote in  
"Conception of Value"). The way I read Strawson (read in the past, that is -- 
 note the morpheme) was in terms of ascription of 'freedom' (not just 
freedom  from observation) but freedom simpliciter. I cannot resent that it 
rained all  day yesterday. I can only resent that Strawson did not tell me there 
was a party  at the swimming-pool, or something.
I recall I discussed this at length with my thesis advisor in Buenos Aires, 
 Eduardo Rabossi. I had to complete a doctoral seminar with Beatriz 
Lavandera,  and she died. I said to Rabossi (before she had died, but when nobody 
had  explained to me why the seminar had been cancelled), "I resent what she 
did --  abandon the course in the middle of it". He said, "You are an idiot" 
(or words  to that effect). "Surely you cannot resent anything that she 
does. She is a sick  woman" (meaning healthwise --). I felt so awkward after 
that meeting with my  tutor. Tutees can be so idiotically selfish!
So Lavandera did NOT abandon her students; she was 'forced' to do it. Since 
 she was not FREE to do it, it is UNGRAMMATICAL to resent what she did; we 
can  only pity her.
   And may she rest in peace.
Back to 'try':
>this is a very interesting verb. In fact,
>in fact in my book I  argue that it is one of an entire class of mental
>verbs of a very special  sort. 
Oddly, Rabossi (may he rest in peace) I always thought I found very  
difficult to discuss with; but then I blame Ryle. The man (Rabossi) found time  
between his football matches and his cookouts in his ranch to translate (for 
the  masses) Ryle, "The concept of mind" -- el concepto de lo mental. I WOULD 
Rabossi was obsessed with verbs of action. Knowing that I was in the  
audience for a public 'tutorial', we played with referring to Grice 'intend' as  
INTENDER -- and this I have used PUBLICLY and in a publication too -- cited 
in  Habermas, The pragmatics of communication, MIT -- "Speranza" is the name 
"Intender" will NOT do, for in Spanish, the 'int-' became 'ent-'.  
"Entender" (French entendre) means to 'understand', although it is cognate with  
English 'intend'.
We do have in Spanish, "intentar", which is a doublet, I think they are  
called, i.e. a Latinate term of a later date, vis a vis 'entender'.
----- end of Rabossiana.
Back to 'try':
>Suppose I'm doing my morning "thing"
>feeding my two birds. I've  reached over the same shelf to get the
>"avi-cakes" for years. One day, I  reach and, and suddenly, my
>arm freezes up (or gets thrown out of the  sockets, whateva). I let
>go with a brief "yipe" and someone comes in and  ask: "What 
>happened?" I reply "I was trying to get the avi-cakes and my  arm
>came out of its socket." Here is what to notice: Had  someone
>come in as I was reaching, just before the arm came out of  its
>socket, and asked: "What are you doing?" I would NOT have
>said  "I'm trying to get the avi-cakes."
You would _not_; Maybe _I_ would. People ask too many questions.  :).

>It is only if I FAIL that I say "I was trying..." Now this has  been
>noticed with respect to individual verbs but no one has  noticed
>that this is a class.
Interesting point, as it relates to a point I was going to make (but  
forgot) regarding Grice's little sympathy for the 'special episode' account of  
-- and here the idea of 'concept' is interesting because it boils down for  
Grice to the role of these concepts in a (folksy) psychological theory, 
complete  with 'proper' generalisations).
His argument -- as expanded in Chapman -- is that
     special episode    special  episode   special episode
    trying to  sing           trying to  dance    trying to sing and dance
i.e. Surely, it is as if Grice is wanting to say, we need some  
'transparency' here! And recall that Quine has 'propositional attitude' verbs as  
Chapman writes:

"The alternative (to the dispositional account) is  to consider that such
statements as describing 'special episodes', in other words to  concede
that they can be understood as
--- and here I make a note on keeping a diet, and observing yourself  
heading for the plate of ravioli -- etc. which Chapman/Grice have denied.
And cfr. the title of Pears' lecture, "Predicting and deciding". It seems  
'predicting' _IS_ descriptive? and isn't 'introspection' a sort of 
observable  experience, etc.
"they can be understood as descriptive, only
of PRIVATE sensations,"
--- and I see that 'private language' in the OED credits Anscombe --
"directed simply at the INDIVIDUAL [not generic] CONCEPT
in question. These sensations takae the form of a 
SPECIAL and highly SPECIFIC psychological ENTITIES, such as
                [or 'trying-feelings. JLS].
But then, Chapman notes,
"Every case of wanting [or 'trying' -- to honour Grice and Bayne --  JLS],
for instance, must create 
"The system of explanation quickly becomes UNWIELDY;
      wanting an apple [or trying to reach for the  bird food -- JLS]
"for instance, must be a DISCRETE phenomenon, different from
       wanting an orange [or trying to  reach for a beer -- JLS]
"or a pear or a banana"
>It is a condition of use that I am thwarted
>or that there is a  special circumstance. Ryle's use of 'voluntary'
>is like this; but the  same sort of thing is, I suspect, in play
>in the case of Grice's 'looks'  and, here I'm alluding to his
>doubt or denial condition. This can be  extended to "My intention
>was..." Notice, also, the tense connection. 
---- Yes, you are very correct.
I would think Grice would generalise the point here in what he calls  
"A-philosophers". Where I _THINK_ "A" stands for 'appropriateness' (in WoW  
prolegomena googlebooks).
For he wants to say that an 'appropriateness' condition
        -- the special circumstance  where you are thwarted
               cfr. Ryle 'voluntary'
                     that Grice credits in WoW, i.
                    or Austin, 'No modification without aberration'
                     HIS target of attack -- vis a vis Searle's defense
                    in "Modifications and Aberrations",
                        British Analytic Philosophy
                 or indeed "The pillar box SEEMS red to me"
                 or Hart on 'trying', etc. --
is NEITHER a necessary nor a sufficient condition, but only an  
The notion of 'implicature' he "coins" in WoW, ii -- so we have to wait for 
 a week -- I assume the lectures were once a week, I don't know. I couldn't 
have  slept in the interim. (at least a day).
So he would say that
means whatever it means but the 'and I'm thwarted' is an implicature  
arising from expectations of optimal informativeness:
Why bother to say, "I tried" -- when you _also_ know that you succeeded  and
when you think that that is in the interest in your audience?
           What are _you_  doing?
           I'm trying to  get the avi-cakes.
           Okay. Sorry.  Allow me to let you succeed.
              JL. Hi
           Danny  Frederick. What are you doing?
           JL.  Nothing really. I was trying to get myself an immersion
                           bath with foam in the tub
          Danny Frederick. I  suppose I'm calling in a bad time.
                    I _am_ interrupting.
           JL. Not  really. I'm only TRYING to get myself
                   a nice immersion bath. But I never do (get it)!
                   Just _trying_ makes me feel _so_ good.
           Danny  Frederick. Have you been reading Grice lately.
           JL.  _Trying_.
           Danny  Frederick. OK. I'll see if I can try AND call you
                   back when you are in a less, er, philosophical
           JL. There's no  harm in _trying_.
I've checked it's Brandeis, not Princeton -- and Harman expands on the  
Philosophical Grounds of Rationality: Intentions, Categories, Ends - Google 
 Books Result  by Richard E. Grandy, Richard Warner, H. Paul Grice - 1988 - 
 Philosophy - 512 pages
This shows that no attitude involved in trying to  defeat the plant's 
security ... 9 I owe these examples to Grice's lectures on  intention and trying 
at ...
books.google.com/books?isbn=0198244649...  -

The cricket batter tries to throw the ball OVER the pitcher's  head
expecting the ball to arrive waist high
having been told that otherwise the throw will fall short.
The security officer tries to defeat an atomic power plant's security  
as a way of testing 
HOPING he will not be able to succeed
The athlete tries to push over a wall
in order to build up his muscles
("I owe these examples to Grice's lectures on intention and trying at  
Brandeis University in the early sixties." (p. 370).
In "Prolegomena" Grice's example is
He tries to turn off the light
   implicature or appropriateness condition:
    "It IS or might have been a matter of SOME  difficulty
          for me to turn off  the light."
Studies in the way of words - Google Books Result  by Paul Grice -  1989 - 
Philosophy - 394 pages
Prolegomena There is a familiar and, to many,  very natural maneuver which 
is of frequent occurrence in conceptual inquiries,  whether of a 
philosophical or ...
books.google.com/books?isbn=0674852710...  -
I recheck and indeed it's pp. 6-7 of WoW where he expands on 'trying' --  
thus titled the subsection. It's NOT Ascribed to Hart (he ascribes 
'carefully'  to Hart). 

Chapman notes, and I add this as a final note for this post, that in  
"Intention and Uncertainty" Grice indeed wants to reformulate an earlier view of  
'intention' in terms of trying that he held. And this helps Chapman to 
propose  that Grice's career has been mainly a development of his own 
philosophical self.  He was somewhat obsessed with the views he held and kept good 
record of them; he  certainly saw life as a 'philosophical' development. Which 
I always found  inspirational. I.e. as if philosophy is a long conversation 
(or short as in the  case of Ramsey say) with one self -- or with, to put it 
vaguely with one's  former self (vide. Grice, "Personal Identity"). 
(Although I prefer to converse  with my future self on occasions -- his use of 
slang leaves me cold -- 'cool'). 
J. L. Speranza
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