[hist-analytic] The Play Group: D. F. Pears

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Sat Dec 26 02:02:48 EST 2009

I wrote of the peripathetic. A good malaprop, as it was.
The obit in "The Independent" (by Paul Levy. Grice's obit in The  
Independent was written by J. O. Urmson) does go Aristotelian on this one,  though:
"He also says ..." 
"that much Oxford philosophy of the  time was peripatetic, conducted during 
long walks in the meadows and regular  meetings of small groups." 
The problem is that a peripatos is  really a come and go, go and come, up 
and down, down and up. For anyone who's  been in the actual bit of Athens 
where those peripatoi  took place, right?  On the other hand, a long straight 
walk in the Meadows -- as you follow the  river -- does not really qualify. 
Not much 'peri' about them. I felt MUCH  more like in Plato's Hekademos (M. 
Chase has pointed out to me that "Academy"  was created in memory of a hero 
known as "Hekademos", and, since, I cannot find  myself using 'academy' 
anymore). The Hekademia was an olive grove, without the  city wall, as it were -- 
and less peripatetic in nature then. 
The obit. continues: "J.L. Austin  had his Saturday morning 
"kindergartens," in which David participated". 
I should check if the play group  ever met at Christ Church. Warnock 
recalls that they (or at least Austin) seemed  to prefer the big rooms of Grice's 
own college, St. John's, which had them look  like successful businessmen. 
After Austin's death, Grice conducted the meetings  at Corpus Christi. 
"I shall but I  won't" 
"I won't but I  shall" 
are perhaps too _blunt_ statements  of the topics Pears and Grice were 
discussing. Grice only superficially refers  to the 'shall' vs. 'will' 
distinction in "Intention and Uncertainty". But  Pears's focus on the prediction 
aspects of our decisions may have bearing on  this. 
Another delightful anecdote coming  from Pears, I find is his discussion 
with this anonymous contender. The anecdote  comes from the Times obituary, 
and paints Pears to a T, as they say: 
"Pears was at the centre of all  this and a robust disputant: “I wouldn’t 
stake my reputation on this,” said one  prudent speaker. “Who cares about 
your reputation?” was Pears’s comment, always  intent on the philosophic, 
not the personal, nub." 
Christ Church is reputedly the best  Oxonian college, and it was warming 
(if that's the expression) that Pears was  the first curator of their Picture 
Gallery. It was also nice to learn that after  all there _was_ a connection 
between that charming painting by Millais for the  Pears's soap and the man 
whose obit we are commenting now. While educated at  Devon, he had been born 
in fact in Bedfont, and he would meditate on the fact  that the house of 
his actual birth was possibly 'obliterated' by that monster  that is Heathrow. 
There _is_ a sort of festschrift  for Pears, which I hope carries a good 
complete checklist of his publications.  
J. L. S. 
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