[hist-analytic] Qualia: A Gricean Account

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Sat Nov 7 20:25:37 EST 2009

In a message dated 11/7/2009 11:12:36 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
Baynesr at comcast.net writes:

what do you take a color to be. If you mean a qualia or some such 
that is one thing; if you mean something like "that property which  causes 
an object to be seen as (e.g.) yellow under standard circumstances"  that 
is VERY different. 
---- That was S. R. Bayne's query to B. Aune, and I'm following the thread  
with interest. Thanks to S. R. Bayne for his comment on 'hot potatoes'. The 
 issues may relate, and I agree with S. R. Bayne's reply to B. Aune that 
possibly  'hot' is _not_ a 'common sense' notion (I have discussed elsewhere 
Putnam's  Twater -- fool's water, as the online song goes!).
It may do to consider Grice's informants again, since this is Aune, ch. 2,  
where he uses the 'color' problem only exemplificatorily before immersing 
onto a  discussion of meaning postulates.
Chapman then reports how Grice would ask children aged 10
                 can a thing be red and green all over?

On the other hand, his case (this above was more along the lines of  
"Defense of a dogma") in the history of philosophy was for a causal theory of  
perception that Bayne has summarised neatly, regarding
        the pillar box seems red
        the pillar box looks red
-- and the 'causal link' that should explain any of the two statements.  
Notably for Grice it would seem that
the first ("seems") statement is _entailed_ by the second ("is")  
statement, but of course Dalton would object.
(Otherwise, it is not clear that uttering (i) is to utter a weaker claim  
than (ii); Grice notes this).
Then there are the types of Rogers Albritton objections that he considers  
(Grice does) in "Some remarks about the senses" (originally in Butler, 
Analytic  Philosophy).
      That man looks good-looking
      That man is good looking
There seems to be a regressus ad infinitum in what I once called  
'phenomenalist' ("seems") language (versus 'noumenalist' rather than  'physicalist') 
    It seems as if it seems as if it seems as if ... seems  as if the 
pillar box is red.
Now it was objected to me re: the 
    The potato is hot
that things may _look_ or _sound_ hot to people. One boils oils to fry an  
omelette, smells 'the heat' and 'sees' the boilage. One would hardly need to 
put  the finger in it. I would think animals behave like people in this 
respect. It  would be surreal to watch my cat attempt to 'drink' from the 
fawcett as it  spills boiling water.
But it would seem that in these cases what we have is a seem-is  
paraphernalia ('noumenalistic/phenomenalistic'):
If I smell the boiling oil and I see it boil, it would seem that the  
evidence is
directly to the claim that the oil _seems_ hot.
I.e. that WERE I TO TOUCH it it would be, indeed, 'hot' to the organ of  
(I'm being conservative here and following Urmson, "The objects of the five 
 senses", Brit. Ac., that there are only five and five only senses).
Now, there seems to be an asymmetry between 'hot' and 'red' (or 'green').  
It did always struck me as odd, along the lines put forward by Bayne in his  
query to Bruce, that
     the pillar box _is_ red
     the pillar box _seems_ red
connotes an 'otiose' distinction. For 'red' is in the _seeing_. Things  
cannot but _seem_ red. I am thus committed to a 'qualia' account of 'red' -- 
not  a physical one in terms of 'range' in a spectrum.
Oddly, Grice considers another odd example with colours. In this case,  
colours -- changeable as they seem -- of ties. This is in 1967 Logic and  
Conversation, iii:
He is considering the notion (that the does not label explicitly) of  
'disimplicature'. If Austin and Witters, he says, ignored implicature, they most  
obviously ignored disimplicature or were tricked by it. If implicature is 
the  phenomenon by which an utterer means more than he says, a disimplicature 
is the  phenomenon by which a loose utterer drops an entailment that it 
standardly  communicated by what is said:
Grice is considering the scenario of a couple trying to decide on what tie  
to buy to a friend. 
They know the friend only would like 
                  a medium-blue tie
(I think is the term he uses).

The consider one particular tie, and one utterer 'goes' -- this is not  a 
ValleyGirlism, but a report of a phatic act, alla Austin)
    The tie seems to be light-blue in this light (rather  than medium-blue).
The other objects
    Yes, but it does look as if it might seem dark-blue in  this other 
light (rather than medium blue).
Grice wants to say that these two utterances are _too prolix_, if that's  
the word, and thus a flout to the conversational maxim,
         avoid prolixity.
It's more likely they would go:
     The tie _is_ light blue under this light.
     Yep, on the other hand, it is dark blue under this  other light.
Grice notes words to the effect that in 'circumstances where a change of  
colour is hardly likely to occur, utterers are entitled to _disimplicate_ 
like  that'. 
But with this latter comment, he seems to be leaning then for a  
'physicalist' rather than a qualia approach to colour. 
Chapman notes in her excellent exegesis that if Grice meant anything to the 
 history of analytic philosophy, it was a reconsideration of a non-posit
ivistic  attitude: it was a 'regress' to a way of doing philosophy that WOULD 
allow  qualia that were 'exterminated' by the 'rednecks' (sic! it's Grice's 
word! in  Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, "Actions and Events", 1986) of the 
Vienna  Circle. By allowing for a qualia-approach to sensa he is turning 
English  philosophy back to the right tracks of the empiricist tradition of a  
But of course problems remain: the seem/is, and the loose uses of language  
point to the complexity of the issues even for a Gricean, or so it would 
_seem_  to me.
J. L. Speranza
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