[hist-analytic] Nowell-Smith and Grice

jlsperanza at aol.com jlsperanza at aol.com
Thu Dec 17 10:33:29 EST 2009

In a message dated 12/17/2009 9:58:15 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
Baynesr at comcast.net writes:

First, P. H. Nowell-Smith informed me in correspondence some years 
ago that he was in this group. In fact, a close read of his _Ethics_  
some striking use of language one finds in Austin. I asked him if these 
locutions ( I don't have them at my finger tips) were his or Austin's.  He 
was uncommitted but seemed to indicate they were Austin's. 
Aha. I guess I knew about that. Nowell-Smith was _Trinity_, next to Grice's 
 (St. John's -- they share the stone-wall and Trinity's gardens seem better 
for  croquet than St. John's). 
Anyway, Nowell-Smith moved soon to Leicester and then Coventry, but  
returned to Oxford in later years, to everyone's happiness. I like my Oxford  
philosophers to live in Oxford.
There is a PhD by an Italian called "Contextual implication" (the surname  
of the Italian, Rossi, of Firenze -- PhD submitted to an Italian university) 
 where he compares Nowell-Smith with this other play group member, Grice. 
For 'contextual implication' has a lot to share with Grice's conversational 
 implicature (oddly, I find in the online Short/Lewis Latin dictionary that 
 'implicatura' was used by Sidonius back in the 400s, A. D., to mean, of 
all  things, 'entanglement' -- Loeb Classical Library).
What's more interesting -- EVERYONE who was ANYONE, as the idiom goes (?),  
was writing about this type of 'pragmatic' implication by then: Hungerland, 
 Grant, etc., and before them, Moore even, "Reply to Critics" in Library of 
 Living Philosophers), is that the
for Nowell-Smith's contextual implication and Grice's conversational  
are similar.
In particular, historians of pragmatics (there _are_ such beasts!) who have 
 traced the history of Grice's conversational maxims (notably Horn in his 
"Greek  Grice: the history of conversational maxims" for the Chicago 
Linguistics  Society, etc.) have noted that Nowell-Smith used, colloquially, the 
'rule' as he  calls it,
   'be relevant'
---- Now, Grice will have this (under "Relation", to echo Kant) as one of  
the FOUR categories. 
In 1964, Relevance made a revival when Strawson published his "Identifying  
reference and truth-values" for THEORIA, repr. Logico-Linguistic Papers. He 
 notes there is something like a "Principle" or Platitude as he amusingly 
calls  it, of "Relevance" to guide the addressee into the right 
interpretation of "The  king of France did not attend the recent exhibition at the Royal 
Academy; since,  well, he does not exist". (Not that he would if he did).
Grice would often refer to Nowell-Smith's views, I tend to recall, in  
"Prejudices and Predilections" but perhaps he doesn't. I think HE does when he  
recalls Nowell-Smith presenting Austin with a misquoted (by Grice) verse by  
Donne as 'unintelligible' English -- to get the proper Austinian rebuke,  
"perfectly intelligible to me".
Nowell-Smith married and had many children and used to wear thick  glasses.
He has some other gems, too, like an essay in "Speech acts", and of course  
the proper essay in the Aristotelian Society on "contextual implication". 
His  _Ethics_ is indeed a gem, and to think that it was published for Penguin 
shows  how the world has changed (Penguin publishes erotica mainly today!). 
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