[hist-analytic] Rosebushes and Cherry-Trees: Grice's Harborne Revisited

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Sat Jul 18 10:53:22 EDT 2009

Do _cherry trees_ grow in Harborne? We expect  so. I trust the red rose of 
England (immortalised in "Merry England" "Dan Cupid  hath a garden...").

Suppose we visit Harborne.

"Looking for the  birthplace of H. P. Grice"

--- "That hospital over  there"

"Hospital?" This was March 26 1913 -- I expect he was born in a  house? 
(Anyway: Blue placque expected).

Suppose we arrive in the Spring  -- rosebushes and cherry-trees in bloom.
Yet, suppose we ask a landscape  painter to provide us a 'representation'. 
He does, but snow-flakes in evidence  -- all lean and 'bleak' as Christina 
Rossetti would put it.
What's going  wrong?

Well, Grice refers to his once 'tutee' Strawson, "A logician's  landscape" 
-- which I have rephrased as a _scientist's landscape_.

For  consider the sort of objection that D. Frederick raises: "Oh, don't 
take me  wrong: I think _Individuals_ is not totally useless" or words to that 
effect.  The sentiment may echo what Grice expresses in "Prejudices and 
Predilections"  (Grandy/Warner, p. 53):

Russell went over the top, Grice claims, when he  speaks of 'stone-age 
metaphysics'. 'Stone-age _physics_' [emphasis Grice's] ,  rather, he suggests, 
"if by that we mean a primitive set of HYPOTHESES about how  the world goes".

He suggests that EVEN if refuted, 'stone-age physics'  may share something 
with 'twentieth-century physics' --; he suggests, 'some very  general 
characterisation of the nature of reality". 

And even if we grant  Russell with his choice of 'metaphysic': surely the 
PRESENTATION of such a  metaphysics should turn out to be a perfectly LOGICAL 
'enterprise', "though  not," he hastens to add, an enterprise in _physical_ 
science" (again emphasis  Grice's). Echoes of Unified Science obvious.

--So back to the landscape  painter:

Is the Scientists _bound_ ('condemned') to Minimalism?  

"In favour of Minimalism," Grice writes, "we might hear an appeal,  echoing 
Quine, to the beauty of 'desert landscapes'."

"But such an appeal  I would regard as INAPPROPRIATE."

"We are _not_ being asked by a  Minimalist to give
our [aesthetic] vote to a special, and no doubt very  _fine_,
type of landscape."

"We are being asked to express our  preferences
for an


[-- as his beloved Harborne. JLS]

"... at a  recognisably _lean_ time: to rosebushes and
cherry-trees in mid-winter,  rather than in spring or summer.
To change the image somewhat"

[And  who said that his prose grew beautifully florid in the best sense of 
'rhetoric'  with age?]

"... what _bothers_ me about what I am being
offered [to  buy] is not that it is _bare_,
but that it has been 


Which is back to Cole Poter, I guess:

-- and Paul  _Anything-Goes_ Feyerabend*, but for a longer  day:

"If driving fast cars you  like
if  old hymns you like
if bare limbs  you like
or me undressed you  like
well then nobody will oppose!"


J. L.  Speranza

*Feyerabend grew increasingly  agitated when he co-examined students at 
Berkeley with Grice: "Last week we  spent the whole examination torturing the 
student with his intuitions as to what  his 'conversational move' to "There 
is a rhinoceros in the refrigerator" would  be".       

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