[hist-analytic] The Gricean Omission

jlsperanza at aol.com jlsperanza at aol.com
Fri Jul 31 15:33:06 EDT 2009

S. Bayne re:

"the cross examination case"

supplied by A. Melden supervisee R. Barnett,


"Melden was far more thought provoking form me than Hampshire"

But the most provocative (more provocative than provoking!) has been to
me, you guessed right, Grice. I don´t have the reference to hand but
will see if I can unbury it for the annals of analysis. In his "Actions
and Events" (a rarely cited paper by Grice, published in 1986 for the
Pacific Philosophical Quarterly and merely meant as a criticism of
Davidson) Grice does consider omissions, typically, a man who omits to
take his hat off -- or something.

Grice, who spent YEARS discussing action with Davidson (I often think
what a sadder place for both Grice and Davidson would Berkeley had been
for either!), wants to say that Davidson (is this his behaviourist,
Davidson´s, background or what?) endorses a rather too meagre
metaphysics or ontology of actions (and/or omissions). In a rather
mixed bag of an essay, Grice overviews inter alia von Wright´s logic of
events, and ends up with some typically Kantotelian distinctions.

Personally, I never omit a thing. I know Bayne loves the word, ´to do´
-- a pro-verb if ever there was one. And I can´t start digesting that
things I have NOT done will count as my credentials. But then South
Americans take war seriously. None of your conscientious objector´s
omissive stuff! (It=C
2s bloody mandatory down here!).

Hampshire was a good´un. I recall enjoying most of his obit that
anecdote involving the French p. o. w. I forget if what Sir Stuart
meant to do was omitted or what.

I don´t think Grice (never mind Anscombe!) omitted many things in his
life! Then there´s counter-omissions: things OTHER people think you
SHOULD have done, and since you haven´t, they do it ON YOUR BEHALF!
Bitter but Strawsonianly true. Chapman ("Grice") recounts the
well-known story: Grice delivered (read) from his copy of "Meaning" in
a meeting of the Oxford Philosophical Society in 1948. 8 years later,
Sir Peter asked for the manuscript. Unbeknownst to Grice, Strawson and
Lady Ann (a proof reader of good sorts!) edited it slightly, as she
typed it, and submitted, signed "H. P. Grice, University of Oxford" to
the Philosophical Review. The next thing "H. P. Grice" was the world´s
most famous philosopher!

So, yes, perhaps he did omit to send the paper hisself (sic) but there
you are, the parochialism of the man you love or leave!


J. L. Speranza

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