[hist-analytic] Grice's Betes
Roger Bishop Jones
rbj at rbjones.com
Mon Feb 22 13:17:47 EST 2010
I have given further consideration to Grice's Betes Noires
and the risk that they would be an impediment to
conversation with Carnap, and I have read at least some of
what he writes of them in PGRICE (but cut of at page 81!).
I would like to suggest that the key to Grice and Carnap
understanding each other in this context is to make a
distinction between different kinds of "Minimalism".
The signs are that this is not a distinction which has
occurred to Grice, but I believe it is key to understanding
why not all minimalisation is as bad as Grice seems to think
it is, and to his understanding of Carnap.
The distinction I draw is between dogmatic minimalisation
and pluralistic or pragmatic minimalisation.
(there probably are three there, but for the time being I
will treat the second two as one).
The distinction is best understood by reference to
phenomenalism and materialism. Grice cannot understand how
someone can be both a phenomenalist and a materialist.
Insofar as these are dogmatic minimalisms this seems to me
reasonable. But Carnap is a pluralistic and a pragmatic
minimalist, and as such he is both a phenomenalist (or would
like to be if he could make it work) and a materialist
(supposing that to be a reasonable description of his
For Carnap the phemonemalistic language will be useful for
some purposes, and the physicalistic for others, and either
can be used for addressing the problems to which they are
This pragmatic element is crucial in motivating much
minimalism. Of course, that's not always the case. Many
nominalists are dogmatic and will rejects the ontology of
set theory without offering any other solution to the
problems it addresses best.
In mathematics, minimalisation is a way of simplifying the
rigourisation of mathematics using formal systems.
Its not a nominalistic minimalisation for it embraces a
lavish abstract ontology, but the ontology is exclusively of
pure well-founded extensional sets, so there is only one
kind of abstract entity. One could have chosen some other
kind of abstract entity, or a broader selection, but this
one is the simplest and there are practical advantages in
selecting just the one kind of entity. So its a good idea
to chose. And you have to chose even if you are going to
have lots of different kinds of abstract entity, there is
always a minimalisation of kinds goind on in these
It need not be a dogmatic minimalisation, one can (and many
do) advocate and make use of such foundation systems, but
accept any number of alternative and contradictory
minimalisations, and even use different ones for different
problems (though its likely to be simpler to stick to one).
So the question is, if the idea of pluralistic minimalism
could be made clear to Grice, would he be more tolerant of
such minimalisms than he is of (what I like to call)
There are special issues to be addressed in connection with
extensionalism, and probably for some other specific -isms,
but I will leave these for another day.
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