[hist-analytic] Grice on Conversation: Between Self-Love and Benevolence

jlsperanza at aol.com jlsperanza at aol.com
Tue Jan 12 08:50:30 EST 2010

Grice's Oxford "Conversation" Lectures, 1966
Grice: Between Self-Love and Benevolence
As I was saying (somewhere), Grice uses "self-love", charmingly qualified  
with capitals, as "Conversatinal Self-Love", and, less charmingly,  
"Conversational Benevolence", in lectures advertised at Oxford, as "Logic and  
Conversation" that he gave, not at Harvard, but at Oxford in 1966 as "University  
Lecturer in Philosophy". The notes he kept and are now deposited in The H. 
P.  Grice Papers at the Bancroft Library in UC/Berkeley. Chapman I'll quote  
"A number of the lectures (by Grice) include discussion of the
types of behaviour people in general exhibit, and therefore
the types of expectations"
cfr. Bayne on owings
"they might bring to a venture such as a conversation".
"Grice suggests that people in general both exhibit
and EXPECT a certain degree of helpfulness"
-- alla Rosenschein, epistemic/boulemaic:
If A cognizes that B wills p, then A wills p.
"from OTHERS"
-- reciprocal vs. reflexive, etc.
"usually on the understanding that such 
helpfulness does NOT get in the way of
particular goals"
"and does not involve undue effort"
--- cfr. Hobbes on, as Bayne stresses, self-love.
"It two people, even complete strangers,
are going through a gate, the expectation is
taht the FIRST ONE through will hold the
gate open, or at least leave it open, for the
second. The expectation is such that to
do OTHERWISE without particular reason
would be interpreted as RUDE."
"The type of helpfulness exhibited and
expected in conversation is more specific
because of a particular, although not a 
unique feature of conversation."

"It is a COLLABORATIVE venture between
the participants".
"There is a SHARED aim"
Grice wonders. His words,
           "helpfulness  in something 
      equate to
"He seems to have decided that it does: by the later lectures
in the series, 'the principle of conversational helpfulness'
has been rebranded the expectation of 'cooperation'".
"During the Oxford lectures, Grice develops his\
account of the precise nature of this cooperation. It can
be seen as governed by certain
detailing expected behaviour. The term 'maxim' to describe
these regularities appears relatively late in the lectures."
"Grice's INITIAL choices of terms are 'objectives' and 
He was particularly fond of the latter.
"He was interested in detailing the desirable forms of
behaviour for the purpose of achieving a joint goal of
the conversation."
"Initially, Grice posits
such desiderata. Those relating to candour on the one hand
and clarity on the other."
"The desideratum of candour contains his general principle of
making the strongest possible statement and, as a limiting
factor on this, the suggestion that speakers should try not
to mislead"
cfr. our
"We are brothers"
-- but not mutual.
"We are married to each other". "You _are_ a boor".
"The desideratum of clarity concerns the manner of expression"
His later reference to Modus as Used by Kant as one of the four  categories.
"for any conversational contribution."
"It includes the
expectations of relevance to understanding and also insists
that the main import of an utterance be clear an explicit."
"These two factors are constantly to be
against two
"Contributions to a conversation are aimed towards
the agreed current purposes by the
Conversational Benevolence."
ensures the assumption on the part of both
participants that neither will go to
unnecessary trouble in framing their contribution".
This has been a topic of interest to Noh end. 
In my "Conversational Immanuel" I tried different ways of making
sense -- it is very easy to do so -- of Grice's distinctions that
go over the head of some linguists I know! Reasonable versus
rational for example. A Rawlsian distinction of sorts.

Rational is too weak. We need 'reasonable'. So, what sort
of reasonableness is that which results from this
harmonious, we hope, clash of self-love and benevolence?

Grice tried, wittily, to extend the purposes of
conversation to involve

-- a reciprocal.
(WoW, ii). And there's a mythical reconstruction
of this in his "Meaning Revisited" which he contributed
to this symposium organised by N. Smith on Mutual
But issues remains, we hope.
J. L. Speranza
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