[hist-analytic] Toulmin and the Play Group

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Wed Dec 16 20:49:21 EST 2009

Thanks to S. Bayne for his comments. Excellent to KNOW that Toulmin  
subscribed to Hist-Anal. I suppose his son, Greg, though of a state other than  
California, will try and have the Toulmin papers (if he left any) safely  
deposited in some uni. It would be interesting to know in which.

I have done some little more research about his associations with  Oxford's 
play group (i.e. the Saturday morningers of Austin). Toulmin was  
university lecturer in the philosophy of science from 1949 to 1954 -- but I  still 
ignore which college he was associated with.

This was the heyday of "Oxford ordinary school philosophy" almost (as  
Grice notes in "Prejudices and Predilections", in Grandy et al, "PGRICE"), so it 
 is not surprising that there ARE some cross-references:
The cross references seem  perhaps minimal. I have been able to trace
   -- Hare, R. M. Review of Toulmin, An examination of the place  of 
          reason in ethics.  Philosophical Quarterly 1951.
          Note that this is an  early Hare. In fact, I unburied that 
reference when Hare died, and I was  checking the list of his publications from 
his Practical Inferences. I would  hope Hare's son deposited his 
unpublications, if he left any, safely  somewhere
   -- Urmson, J. O. The province of logic: being a review
        of Toulmin, The uses of  argument. In Nature, 1958, pp. 213- 
(doublecheck page number)
        available online if you  log-in. If a member to this can do that 
and share pdf with us, nice
     (See Toulmin's refs. to Urmson below)
    -- Strawson, P. F. Review of Toulmin,
       The uses of argument. In The Listener,  the BBC weekly, 1958.
Apparently, Toulmin was more affiliated with the OTHER group popular or  
influential at the time, led by Ryle. Ryle was possibly Toulmin's doktorvater  
(if the term applies) while in Oxford (as Braithwaite had been in 
Cambridge). Of  course, unofficial, since Toulmin had earned his DPhil already with 
the  "Examination of the place of reason in ethics". Toulmin acknowledges 
Ryle in  Uses of Argument and indeed shares a good anecdote: Otto Bird provided 
a review  of Uses of Argument for _Mind_ due to Ryle (who edited it). In 
that review Bird  connects Toulmin's enterprise with Aristotle's in Topica. I 
have a friend who  dedicates her life to Topica so she should be pleased. 
She dedicates her life to  book VIII, of the Topica, if you can believe that. 
Graciella Chichi.
So, there are some references to Oxford philosophers who were not part of  
the playgroup. Some I'm not sure, e.g. D. G. Brown. 
-- But when it comes to playgroup members proper (the list I take from  
Grice, op. cit. above) we have -- alphabetically:
    AUSTIN, J. L. Toulmin cites ONLY "Other Minds". This is  an interesting 
essay by Austin which
      -- as it relates to Grice's A-philosophers  -- has been commented by 
Roger B. Jones. Toulmin
      is concerned with 'qualifiers' to 'claims to  knowledge'. He is 
having in view his model for
      argument, complete with claim, data,  warrant, backing, and rebuttal. 
      Austin was alive then, but his early death  meant a stop to any 
further cross-reference here.
    HARE, R. M. Toulmin deals extensively (or perhaps not so  extensively) 
with Hare, Language
       of Morals. Oddly, he is not into what  Hare would later call 
micropragmatic (the subatomic
       particles of logic: the clistic,  tropic, neustic and phrastic). 
Instead Toulmin passes
       muster of the is-ought question as it  relates to practical 
inferences, and how you cannot
       claim a value-judgement unless at  least one of the data is also a 
value-judgement, etc.
    HART, H. L. A. Toulmin cites from the locus classicus by  Hart on the 
ascription of responsibilities
       and rights. He is interested in the  ceteris-paribus defeasibility 
of inferential patterns. He notes
       re: Hart something he possibly did not  like of critics reading his 
own (Toulmin's work): the
       legalese. In the case of Hart, it can  be said that legalese (or 
jurisprudential reasoning) was 
       at the 'heart' of it, as he would  later become Prof. of 
Jurisprudence at Oxford -- a fact that
       perhaps lost him to the narrow  philosophical community. (In 
Argentina, it was the fashion
       of 'lawyers' to get a Brit Council  fellowship and earn a doctorate 
under Hart, e.g. C. S. Nino).
    STRAWSON, P. F. Toulmin cites extensively from  "Introduction to 
Logical Theory". I would assume
      that Strawson's review of Toulmin for the  Listener SHOULD have 
concentrated on his criticisms of
      Strawson. Toulmin was particularly hurt, it  seems, that Strawson 
only cared to 'roundly damn' the
      book. Toulmin's observations on various  aspects of Strawson's 
programme merit a closer 
     URMSON, J. O. Toulmin quotes various essays  by Urmson. Perhaps the 
most important one,
      for which he does not care to give the exact  biblio reference is 
"Two senses of 'probable'". This
      has an anti-Gricean ring to it (recall his  modified Ockham's razor, 
'do not multiply senses
      beyond necessity'), and its treatment  occupies a whole section of 
Toulmin's book ambiguously
      titled, "Is 'probably' ambiguous?". His  prose is so subtle that I 
wasn't sure if he meant 
      that it's not. I guess "'probable' NOT  ambiguous" would have made 
for a better title of a
      section if that was his claim. As with  Strawson, Hart, and Austin, 
Toulmin provides the
      full biblio references at the end of his  book. So, we see he is also 
using Urmson's wonderful
      essay on "Validity" (where he pre-dates  Grice in some of the 
conversational maxims, etc.).
      He also quotes from Urmson, "On grading". A  classic repr. along with 
R. Hall, Excluders,
      in Chappel (as I recall).
There may be other cross-references I missed. In any case, this is the  
Toulmin that, historically, interests me. He has a topical, "On describing",  
co-authored with Baier, which was possibly very influential THEN. For some  
reason, whatever interest he had in ways that overlapped with the 
playgrouppers  evolved into something different. He was possibly of broader interests. 
He  quotes extensively for example from Ryle's colleague, Kneale and his 
work on  induction and probability. So he was perhaps less parochial than the 
Saturday  morning as wickedly recollected by Warnock -- 'we were only 
interested in what  the others of the group were thinking' (Saturday mornings, in 
Berlin, Essays on  Austin). This is perhaps unfair on Grice, since he is seen 
quoting a distant  author like Stevenson, or a not so distant one like 
Witters -- and with a  straight face, too!
JL Speranza
   The Grice Club, etc.
S. Bayne writes:
Thanks for bringing us the bad news, JL.

I met Toulmin a couple of  times and spent what I considered a great deal 
of time on one occasion  discussing philosophy and a number of other issues 
several years ago. He was,  as
you may know, a subscriber to Hist-Analytic, and there are remarks by him  
on remarks made by me on Wittgenstein (as well as some insights by Dick 
Schmitt  out of U. of Chicago).

At one point in our discussion, Toulmin confided  in me certain facts about 
his work in philosophy of science; in particular in  regard to Norwood 
Russell Hanson. Both philosophers had 
a great deal to do  with how history of science and philosophy of science 

Being a  small time journalist, in "another world," I asked if his comments 
were for the  record. He said only on condition that Hanson's wife was no 
longer alive. I made  numerous inquiries
and postings and could never make this determination with  any certainty. 
Given the lapse of time, I believe she is no longer alive.  Moreover, the 
death of Toulmin, himself, alters the moral
equation, somewhat.  So I'm tinkering with the idea of repeating what he 
said in connection with  Hanson. If there are other sources on this, I'd like 
to know. I DO know that  Toulmin was 
working on memoirs. If anyone knows anything about the status of  this 
work, please let me know.

I commented at a meeting on Toulmin's  philosophy of science, years ago. He 
was prepared and wrote up a rather  detailed  set of notes on my comments 
and read them in reply to  my
commentary. Some of this stuff was historically significant but I never  
saw the copy and I forgot some of his points of clarification. This had to do  
with Foresight and Understanding, I believe. 
If anyone knows of archives  that would be helpful.

I'll consider going public on the Hanson thing. In the  meantime.


Steve Bayne

----- Original Message  -----
From: Jlsperanza at aol.com
To:  hist-analytic at simplelists.co.uk
Sent: Wednesday, December 9, 2009 9:01:25 PM  GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: Toulmin and the Play  Group

Sad news about the death of Toulmin, I know a favourite with S.  Bayne.

Anyway, this short notice to share the obit with the list, and  share a 
tidbit of my research. The man, Toulmin, lectured on philosophy of  science at 
Oxford from 1949 to 1954, pretty much the early heyday of Ordinary  Language 
Philosophy --. His "Uses of Inferences" came out in 1958 -- when he had  
left Oxford already but, via an online checklist of his publications I found  
that Urmson reviewed it for _Nature_  for that year, and in another site  
featuring an online interview with Toulmin he makes the rather good sarcastic  

Q. The Uses of Argument has received an enormous amount of  attention. Are 
you surprised by the overwhelming critical reception of that book  and of 
the so-called "Toulmin method" of argumentation?
A. It was not  initially overwhelming, particularly in England. I published 
it in England, and  P. F. (later Sir Peter, and collaborator with Grice -- 
JLS) Strawson wrote a  dismissive review in The Listener, the BBC's 
intellectual weekly; that was the  end of the matter so far as my colleagues in 
England were concerned. 
---  Oddy, my personal concern with Toulmin's book was ideographical. He 
has a  BEAUTIFUL drawing of a cat being on a mat ('the cat sat on the mat') in 
that  book, and I have used that illustrations in lectures I've given. I 
especially  treasure one at the University of Buenos Aires -- as an assistant 
to Rabossi --.  I thought that the drawing being straight from Toulmin gave 
my lecture a lot of  respectability. 
-- the header to note that while Strawson and Urmson did  belong to 
Austin's playgroup -- of the heyday of Oxford ordinary language  philosophy, that 
met Saturday mornings -- vide Grice, "Reply to Richards" in  Grandy/Warner, 
and Warnock, "Saturday mornings" in Berlin et al, Essays on  Austin -- 
Toulmin didn't.


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