[hist-analytic] Before You Know It

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Thu Oct 8 12:13:33 EDT 2009

Being an analytic reassessment of 'healthy' scepticism in the history  of 
I'm enjoying B. Aune's comments, and I think his reply to Bayne's  
magisterial summing up of chapter 1 was magisterial, too.
I would like to focus on this post on the 'logic' of the predicate "know"  
on two counts:
(i) implicatural issues -- misguided?  Some of the comments by Bayne  on 
Aune's 'you can know without believing' seem apt for an implicatural  
approach. This is however tricky. For decades (at least since Grice coined  
'implicature' -- I'm weary of using 'coined' seeing that Short and Lewis Oxford  
Latin dictionary has an entry, implicatura, borrowed from Sidonius --) it was  
felt that the inadequacy of
   "I don't just believe it; I _know_ it" (said smugly by  non-philosophers)
is an unintended implicature. The problem with unintended implicatures is  
that they don't exist. As R. Reichman notes: "An unwanted baby is still a 
baby,  but an unwanted implicature is a contradictio in terminis".
We do have a feeling, with Aune, that 'know' is what I call, a 'hocus  
pocus' verb. E.g, my aunt Matilda spent YEARS believing that The River Plate was 
 so-called because its silvery reflections. And then all her illusions were 
 shattered when she KNEW it couldn't be, since, well, it's muddy on closer  
(It is true that since then, she's been KNOWING that, and sharing it with  
anyone who cares).
(ii) argumentative. Here I refer to 'argument' (why?) as used by some  
logicians to refer to the operators. I recall a lecture I gave at Salta (of all  
places) and a philosopher blatantly ignoring Quine's Word and Object and 
his  reflections on 'know' (and 'believe') for that matter, as a monadic  
   Pegasus knows.     K(P)
   Pegasus knows his elbow from his tail:   K(p)
Most philosophers who won't quine take 'know' as somewhat dyadic. Bayne is  
right in emphasising the 'know of'. 
   I know that the cat is on the mat.
   I know of a cat who is on the mat (and won't be  elsewhere).
"I know the cat is on the mat" is a trick of a thing to say, for we are  
never sure WHAT we know. I follow Peacocke (and Grice) that the role of a  
proposition as a CONTENT of a propositional attitude is enough to credit its  
existence (qua entity, the proposition) -- Grice, "Life and opinions of Paul  
Grice, being his prejudices and predilections". He credits here the Russian 
 philosopher George Myro (Ukranian if you must).
For Peacocke, 'the cat is on the mat' resolves perceptually (sensum-datum,  
as Bayne would prefer) into, 
   "the cat"   being   "on the mat"
i.e. we need to inspect the logical form, intrapropositionally. If the  
Universe were so simple as Witters thought it was, we wouldn't have burdened  
civilisations, philosophers wouldn't, with QUANTIFICATIONAL logic (predicate  
logic). We need iota operators ('the' cat, 'the' mat), and a 
subject-predicate  consideration of what it is for THE cat to be on THE mat. Further, 
Peacocke  argues (Content), we need an expansion in terms of qualia or sense 
reports of  what it is to be a cat, a mat, and on it.
   I know (the cat, is, on the mat)
can very well connect with 
  I know OF a cat that she is on the mat.
(c) It may do to retranscribe the 'know of' in terms of its alleged  
antecessor, 'believe of'. I believe of the cat to be on the mat. 
Issues of factivity. When people say that 'belief', unlike 'know', is  
'opaque' (thanks Willard Van Orman for that) and not transparent, some don't  
know what we are talking about. Opaque is, to me, transparent enough. Those  
glasses are 'opaque'. Does it mean that no refraction is allowed. Is a SOLID  
opaque only? Or do we distinguish between degrees of transparency with  
opaqueness also allowing for degrees?
In the end it seems the justification or rationale is evolutionary. Why  
would people (or pirots, as Grice would prefer) care to KNOW things if it were 
 an attitude that derives from a totally opaque attitude like belief? Where 
does  'know' get its factivity? Gettier leaves us cold here:
    A knows that p   iff A believes that p, p is  true, A has good reasons 
Grice (Logic and Conversation iii) considers, 'p' plays a good causal role  
in the history of why A came to know that p, is what we may need. And 
before you  know it, you get an empiricist theory of knowledge that properly 
acknowledges  the health of scepticism.
Grice played with platonic superlunary forms. "Know", as people use it, is  
sublunary. "You should use a condom for safe sex" "I know". This is 
sublunary.  We are aware that it's a LOOSE disimplicatural use of 'know'.
The use of 'loose' is a good one, but the technical one is disimplicatural. 
 Grice did coin disimplicature, but failed it was an otiose term. I 
disagree. For  the contexts where a concept (like 'know') gains extra implicatures 
which are  NOT part of its content, there is a similar loosening of things 
where the  concept gets disimplicated of PART of its content. It is THIS we 
call loose  use.
His example is the factive, 'see'. Surely we can agree that to see is like  
know. (I always found seeing is believing as too guarded; seeing is 
KNOWING). If  Banquo saw Macbeth, we do no need to postulate a use of "see" that 
LACKS the  entailment that what is seen is there to be seen. (Grice, WoW, iii).
Sticklers for good use (as Austin and Grice were) need to tolerate  
disimplicatures, even if they hated them at heart. Grice was concerned with  
Austin's considerations on belief versus know, in Other Minds:
They were discussing the maxim of trustworthiness:
     "Look at that nice little goldfinch"
For Austin, the implicature is that the utterer KNOWS it's a goldfinch (and 
 a nice little one at that).
For Grice it is merely that he BELIEVES it. ("An honest chap won't utter,  
"That's a blue heron" unless he KNOWS it's blue heron, but not all of us are 
 honest chaps, and if we get too demanding and strict, before you know it, 
you  leave the healthy scepticism and become an irresolute solipsist."
J. L. Speranza
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