[hist-analytic] Toulmin in the History of Analytic Philosophy: The Oxford Years
jlsperanza at aol.com
jlsperanza at aol.com
Mon Dec 21 15:28:45 EST 2009
It would be too valiant to attempt an assessment of Toulmin in the history
of analytic philosophy this December, seeing that Toulmin has died this
December. Assessments like that take Decades. Plus, I seem to be mainly
interested in what I call Toulmin's Oxford years, a few 6 years, from 1949 to
His opus magnum, "The Uses of Argument", has received, as Bayne notes in
his "Toulmin and the discovery of History", much attention in cyberspace, and
here's yet another shot at it.
For what _was_ Toulmin after? We should recall that Uses of Argument was
published when Toulmin was quietly established as a lecturer in Leeds -- far
from Oxonian polemics.
---- As I said elsewhere, it's best to see the Toulmin-Grice polemic (if
any) via Strawson, for Strawson credits Grice as the man "from whom I never
ceased to learn logic since he was my tutor in that topic" (or words to that
effect -- does he mean, 'topic' qua discipline?) and formulates a few
'pragmatic rules' alla Grice ("I owe this pragmatic rule to H. P. Grice" -- he
says in a footnote. Since Toulmin quotes extensively from Strawson's
Introduction to Logical Theory, it is fair to assume that he was at least
partially conscious that some pragmatic alternative or extensive analysis to any
'divergence' bewteen a logical constant and its natural-language
counterparts _was_ availabe, or in the offing.
---- Yet Toulmin manages to speak of 'non-logical goats', which are herded
away from the true logical goats like -- he cites, "or", "all" and "some".
He _never_ uses the symbols, for his is an anti-formal, if not anti-logic,
account. So it is difficult to see how he would react to a full-blown
Gricean defense of the alleged divergence between a logical constant (as used in
a classical logical calculus, when 'standardly interpreted in a bivalent
way', as Grice has it) and their English, 'vulgar', analogues.
----- One thing is certain though. In his third preface to Uses of
Argument, Toulmin compares books to children: they grow OUT of their parents, they
move FROM their parents, to the point that they are hardly recognisable as
one's offsprings. This, Toulmin claims, happened to his "Uses of Argument".
Apparently, it received favourable critical reception in, of all places,
America, where the fashion started for a new way of TEACHING logic --
'informal logic', so-called.
------ But I propose to reconsider Toulmin's enterprise from the point
where it started. I.e. without interference of any popularity Toulmin may have
gained from this didactic pedagogic (apparent) facility of his book. E.g.
is Toulmin seriously providing some Aristotelian backing to a 'new' way of
treating 'inferences' and reasoning? I don't know!
------ It _is_ difficult to compare Toulmin and Grice because Grice, too,
changed. Thus an online essay by Johnson on "Informal Logic" quotes from
Grice, Aspects of Reason, 2001, 8, to the effect that actual reasoning does
not adhere to "canonical inference patterns". This, taken out of context, is
dangerous to give a definite interpretation. Grice, unlike Toulmin, seems
to have regarded 'inference' (as 'sentence') as a value-oriented expression
('an inference is a GOOD inference'). On the other hand, a reader of Uses
of Argument is treated to accounts of 'quasi-logical', 'quasi-valid'
inferences which do not seem to foot the bill.
----- Then there's the topic of 'subject matter'. In "Logic and
Conversation" Grice argues for an analysis of conversation (he is being partially
jocular in his choice of words), 'regardless of its subject matter' to deal
with a pet manoeuvre of his that he wants to criticise -- the alleged
divergence between a logical constant and its vulgar counterpart --. But this
context-invariance is precisely what Toulmin with his 'territorial-oriented
validities' is meant to repudiate.
----- The 'discipline' of logic, beloved by Oxonians, was perhaps at the
core of Toulmin's attack. It is NOT fair to deal with Toulmin as Grice deals
with the informalists and formalists as accepting "two kinds of logic", for
Toulmin, in his most serious, seems to negate that his 'working' logic is
a _logic_ at all. I haven't seen his British Cataloguing in Publication
data, but he would have had a fit if he saw his "Uses of Argument" catalogued
as a "logic" book. But as a discipline, Logic, and Oxford logic in
particular, is so florid; and Toulmin quotes extensively from his 'master' Ryle,
making historical interpretations of his enterprise more difficult to
----- In terms of his published stuff, it's easy to see where Grice is
coming from. In his 1967 prolegomena to "Logic and Conversation" he lists then
this 'manoeuvre' -- represented by Strawson, whom he quotes explicitly,
regarding the divergence of logical constants. In those prolegoma Grice cites
an alleged invalid inference regarding the first three connectives, "and"
(He went to bed and took off his trousers), "or" (My wife is in the kitchen
or in the garden, and I know where") and "if" (Strawson's convoluted
definition, which Grice cares to cite in full:
"each hypothetical statement made by this use of 'if'
is acceptable (true, reasonable) if the antecedent
statement, if made or accepted, would in the
circumstances be a good ground or rason for
accepting the consequent statement; and the making
of the hypothetical statement carries the implication
[implicature for Grice. JLS] either of uncertainty about,
or of disbelief in, the fulfillment of both antecedent
and consequent" (Strawson, op. cit., III, Pt 2).
Since for 'and' and 'or' Grice does not care to provide a specific quote,
it's best to regard that it was these 'indicative conditionals' he was
having somewhat specifically in mind, and it's no surprise then than when he
reprinted the lecture iv, he titled it, "Indicative Conditionals" -- for it is
a full if somewhat inconclusive treatment of the alleged divergence
(surely only alleged for Grice) between 'if' and the horseshoe.
------- Grice is ready to criticise his student. Strawson has acted
properly, crediting Grice where credit is due, and Grice, a polemic figure in the
best sense of the word, feels safely correcting this or that mistake in
'friends'. But where is _Toulmin_ coming from?
------- I for one couldn't yet find what his association with Oxford was,
i.e. fellow of _what_ he was!
In the other posts on "Toulmin and the Play Group" I have tried to provide
some cross-references to the specific members of this play group that
included Grice and Strawson and that Toulmin occasionally quotes in his vintage
publications, and which may serve us to give us a better micro-picture of
where he came from and what his impact was in Oxford, and why he obtained
the reaction he obtained. I have NOT been able to trace Strawson's "Listener"
review of Toulmin's "Uses of Argument", which Toulmin prides himself of
having unsuccessfully 'damning (him) roundly', for "Uses of Argument" unlike
"Introduction to Logical Theory" never came out of print. Then there's what
I hope a less 'dismissive' (or aside-brushing) review by play group member
J. O. Urmson in "Nature", entitled 'The province of logic' which should
prove relevant when studying the Toulminiana in their proper context.
In an online essay, G. M. Ross notes that for years British logicians felt
that it was unfair to students to teach logic with Toulmin-type books. And
Grice declares for a penchant for the 'tidiness' of the 'classical' logical
calculus. The teaching of logic has undergone a transition from purely
axiomatic methods (alla Euclid, indeed) to natural-deduction types, but to go
the whole hog and replace "Principia" by "Uses of Argument" seems perhaps
... a bit too much?
---- In the long run, the reasons may be in the causes. Toulmin had come to
Oxford already with an full-blown interest in the philosophy of science,
where induction is all there is. Imagine his hurt ego when 'logicians' in
Oxford would just dismiss that as 'invalid inferences' as mathematical logic
has it. And while he did his 'linguistic botanising' best with words like
'probably', he got perhaps tired of do the same with logical goals -- he
deals extensively with 'all', though, which he treats in ways parallel to the
Strawson (guided by Grice) account in Introduction to Logical Theory.
Perhaps when the Toulmin unpublications are made public we may be able to delve
deeper in what counts as an interesting polemic in the heart of Oxford
philosophy, by this "man", Wittgenstein called him, who had studied with
J. L. Speranza
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