[hist-analytic] Hampshire and Grice on Trying

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Tue Jul 14 15:22:49 EDT 2009

S. R. Bayne writes:

>You [JLS] mention  Grice on "trying"; 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. 


For the record, further to my notes  on Grice's Brandeis Lectures on 
Trying, I've just caught a quote in Chapman (p.  99) that serves to show the way 
that Grice was _so_ into the 'conversational'  aspects of philosophy. 

As I noted, there's a section entitled 'Trying'  in "Prolegomena" (WoW) and 
Harman (PGRICE) refers to the Brandeis examples. This  is what Chapman 
writes and they way we can see that Grice is connecting the  'issue' to 
discussions with both Hamsphire and Pears (both 'yes'  --:)):

Grice refers [-- in his  unpublished note in faint pencil handwring  --]
back to the discussion at a previous  [meeting] [with Pears] when
the _exact_  'meaning' of 'to try' was discussed. Hampshire  had
apparently claimed that if someone  did something it is ALWAYS
possible to  say that X tried to do it. This was challenged;"

-- cfr. Grice's examples  reported by Harman in previous post

"in situations when there is no obvious difficulty or risk of  failure
involved it is  INAPPROPRIATE to talk of someone's  TRYING
to do  something"

--- and Bayne may care to comment if he reads this  'inappropriate' in the 
early Grice as himself an A-philosopher as  'ungrammatical'!? That would be 
_too_ strong, wouldn't it? I don't know! Since  English grammar I wasn't 
born with a grammar gaffe may lead me sometimes cold  :(.

"Grice's answer had been that, while  it is ALWAYS TRUE
to say that X tried to  do something, this may sometimes be
a  MISLEADING way of speaking. If X succeeded in  performing
the act, it would be MORE  INFORMATIVE and therefore more
coooperative [helpful] to say so. Therefore, an utterance of  
'X tried to do it' will IMPLY  [implicate], but not actually say, that
X did not succeed"  -- cited by Chapman, p. 99


J. L.  S.


"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.  
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, 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 cse of Grice's 'look's' and, here  I'm alluding to his
doubt or denial condition. This can be extended to "My  intention
was..." Notice, also, the tense connnection."  

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