[hist-analytic] Qualia: A Gricean Account

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Sun Nov 8 17:26:46 EST 2009


You raise good points. I can't respond to all of them; so, let me just 

lay out a couple of things in a way that does, but may not appear 

to, cohere with your methodology, here. 

There is a very interesting point made by Eddington (I don't have 

the reference right at hand but it was in The Nature of the Physical 

World. Do your recall the fuss about elliptical pennies and round 

pennies? If you do, much of what you will recall is related to this 

distinction between sense data and the objects that are supposedly 

constructed from them. We look at a penny and what we "actually" 

apprehend is an ellipse. If someone asks what I see I may say: 

"I see a round penny." However, some will maintain that this is an 

inference and that that with which I am immediately acquainted is 

elliptical. Others will say I'm not aware of any *thing* elliptical; I am 

merely experiencing elliptically, or some such adverbization. My own 

bias opinion is that this approach is pretty bad. I am seeing something 

in some sense of 'see' that is, definitely, elliptical and no linguistic 

consideration will convince me that I am not cognitively aware of this 

shape. Now what is interesting is what Eddington says. 

He suggests that the description of a penny as an ellipse is taken 

from a perspective, a subjective perspective from a single point, 

more or less. But the description of the penny as round is not 

perspectival; it is taken from all perspectives other than where the 

penny is at, presumably. This is how I recall it but his description is 

much more brief and maybe not as detailed. The point is that 

the 'seeming' is in some sense subjective. Now this relates to some 

of what you say in the following way. The sense of 'seem' which is a 

"hedge" (like the 'believe' in 'I believe it, but I might be wrong') comes 

out of this perspectival description; it is what is subjective. Now we 

ask: What is subjective about color, if anything? But let's not go into 

that here. However, ask yourself the question: Why don't I say 

"round all over" whereas I do say "red all over"? 

Nothing as a whole is partly round, but a whole can be partly red. Can 

a thing be red "partly" in two senses of 'partly'? That is, if a thing were 

to be both red and blue all over would it be "partly" red? Saying that 

something is red and blue all over certainly does not have the feel of 

"This ball is round all over." But can we exclude both if we were to 

speak of the conditions for an empirical object in general? I think we can; 

and by doing so, explain not only linguistic puzzles but rule out things 

like being two colors at once or two shapes at once or round all over or 

both square and round all over without adding a postulate for each 

exclusion. The concept of an object in general is, however, not a set 

of postulates licensing analytic propositions. 

Finally, 'hot' is semantically and, maybe, morphologically related to 'heat'. 

Notice that the comparative 'hotter' and 'colder' cannot be distinguished 

in terms of temperature. The comparative in the postive degree enters 

in determining that from 'x is hotter than y' that y is hot, but from 'x is 

warmer than y' we don't get 'y is warm'. This is subtle difference; i suspect 

it obtains only in a number of idiolects; it does mine. 



----- Original Message ----- 
From: Jlsperanza at aol.com 
To: hist-analytic at simplelists.co.uk 
Sent: Saturday, November 7, 2009 8:25:37 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern 
Subject: Qualia: A Gricean Account 

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') language: 

    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 touch. 

(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-positivistic 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 Locke. 

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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