[hist-analytic] Grice and Grice: Quasi-Contracts and Pacts

jlsperanza at aol.com jlsperanza at aol.com
Sat Jan 2 15:44:24 EST 2010

Grice and Pseudo-Grice: Quasi-Contracts and Pseudo-Pacts
Thanks to S. R. Bayne, as always, for his provocative posts. That's a  
delightful line of research you are onto: Rawls, Dworkin, Hart, and Austin! (By  
Austin, I mean John Austin, but more on this below).
When I was doing search (I never say 're-search'; it sounds slightly  
over-important) on Grice in the Philosopher's Index data bank, I recall being  
delighted at some secondary bibliography on Grice and contract (i.e. essays  
keyworded as "Grice" and "contract").
It turned out, of course, hence the title of this post, that it was the  
_wrong_ Grice, as it were: G. Russell Grice, of the Philosophy Department of  
University of East Anglia, Norwich, England. Anyway, this man (G. Russell 
Grice,  or Russell Grice, for short, has a fascinating, -- which I don't agree 
with one  jot, though -- account of a contractualist model of morality. And 
he is an  interesting Brit philosopher enough to have merited secondary 
bibliography  of the confusing type I'm referring to: e.g. essays in 
philosophical journals on  "Grice's contracts", etc.
In any case, when I delivered a paper at, of all places, Salta -- which was 
 published by Maria Julia Palacios in her "Temas Actuales de Filosofia",  
available via interlibrary loan, if you can believe that --, I focused,  
seriously, on Grice's very own 'contractual', or 'semi-contractual'. More on  
this below.
Indeed, D. K. Lewis, the late one, who should be the honoured one of a  
Lewis Appreciation Society, had his PhD from Harvard on "Conventions of  
Language". His thesis director or advisor (I never can tell the difference) was  
Quine, and I LOVE to think that Lewis sat at Emerson Hall when Grice 
delivered  his 1967 William James Memorial Lectures -- bi-annual, one year 
philosophy, one  year psychology, them were the days.
Indeed, there are immense crisscrosses Lewis/Grice. In fact, I wedded to  
Lewis's notion of convention. I am NOT a conventionalist, and Grice has a few 
 manifestos against convention, too. My favourite one in WoW, Way of Words, 
 googlebooks, "I don't believe meaning is essentially tied to convention". 
But  some less subtle philosophers -- not to mention non-philosophers -- are 
always  READY to drop the word 'convention' from their lips, which 
irritates me. So  Lewis's book I found good, in his Schelling-based, von-Mises-based 
co-ordination  problem. That was old stuff, indeed popularised by Schiffer 
in his _Meaning_.  But what Lewis got it right, against, I think, Searle -- 
who abused Rawls's  distinction between 'constitutive rules' and (my 
favourite redundancy to avoid)  'regulative rules' --. 
And what Lewis got it right, contra Searle, is the notion of  
'arbitrariness'. I'm never sure what 'liber arbitrium' is; I think it's a  delightful 
phrase used by William James, and which _is_ linked to 'volition' and  
'conation', so one has to be VERY careful with a possibly misuse or loose use of  
this expression, 'arbitrary', by Lewis, of all people.
I recall that Lewis helped me understand Searle. Searle is saying that  
'regulative rules' are _goal-oriented_ etc. If I understood him alright. To use 
 the right hand to hold the knife is _not_ goal-oriented, in a way; it's, 
rather,  arbitrary, or conventional. I don't know, but I follow him. Same 
with driving on  the right (as the Brits do) or the wrong side (as the rest of 
the world does) of  the streeet. It's, er, _arbitrary_, and _then_ 
conventional. For, in Lewis's  magisterial sufficient/necessary conditioned analysis 
of 'is a convention iff',  'is arbitrary' features largely.
Anyway, that's why, I guess, Grice _hated_ 'convention', and 'arbitrary',  
and 'artificial' (e.g. why he prefers non-natural to talk of 'artificial'  
signs). And when it comes to the operations of language he could be more  
forceful, because he was never an Utilitarian (as Warner comments in "The  
philosophy of H. P. Grice", session of APA, in reply to Stalnaker, who wants to  
see Grice as one).
For Grice, consider,
       'honesty is the best strategy, says  I'
For Grice, that is _obscene_. If you are not honest, you are not BREAKING a 
 contractual law. Rather, and I _love_ Grice for saying things like these,
      "you are letting down yourself, good  chap"
I quote from the WoW, since in my Salta paper which I entitled, "The feast  
of (conversational) reason: or the Conversational Immanuel: three steps in 
the  critique of conversational reason" -- (mouthful, but well-meant), I 
seriously  take Grice's three steps in answering what he calls the 
'fundamental' question  in terms of guidelines like those, "be honest".
The first step is an empiricist one; this includes an utitarian, even  
semi-contractualist substep; the second step is 'rationalist' without tears; the 
 third step is _reasonableness_ without tears.

Grice writes -- and this is on p. 29 (an early one, page, that is) from  
his WoW google books, Way of Words:
"But while some such _QUASI-CONTRACTUAL_ basis [emphasis mine. JLS]
as this may apply to some cases [of talk], there are too many types  of
exchange, like quarrelling [chicanery, Grice will also say in  "Valedictory
Essay] and letter writing, that it fails to fit comfortably."
And here is the key passage:
"In ANY CASE, one feels taht the talker who is irrelevant or 
obscure has PRIMARILY let down not his AUDIENCE but
_himself_." Or hisself, as I prefer.
But it was earlier on that very same page, that Grice explains his former  
self. (As Chapman notes in her bio of Grice, Grice's philosophy is an 
attempt to  understand hisself). Grice writes:
"For a time, I was attracted to the idea that
observance of the Co-operative Principle 
[capitals, jocularly, Grice's. Surely it's 
a principle of cooperation, rather. JLS] and
the [conversational] maxims, in a talk
exchange, could be thought of as
with parallels outside the realm of discourse."
-- and he goes on to provide analogues for each of the four conversational  
categories (Quantitas, Qualitas, Relatio, Modus) -- soon to find that "some 
such  quasi-contractual basis" "fails to fit comfortably" borderline or not 
so  borderline cases like 'letter writing, and 'quarreling'. 
A student of logic of mine defined, famously, 'to argue', as "to quarrel,  
with words". So I guess if 'quarreling' is the apex of rationality --  
epagogically, if not diagogically -- I am with Grice any day!
---- Etc.
Incidentally, the term 'pact' I learned from Locke, who was _so_ into "the  
way of words" (his phrase indeed). He was the most important 
'contractualist',  or 'pact-theorist', compared to which Rawls is, well, a minor figure, 
to use  Grice's sobriquet (as Grice applied to Wittgenstein, Bosanquet, and  

As a PhD in philosophy, from the University of Buenos Aires, you HAVE  to 
pass a seminar on Philosophical Ideas in Argentina. My tutor was Oscar Moran, 
 and, yes, there is at least ONE philosophical idea. He spent the whole 
year (for  in Buenos Aires they never heard of 'terms') talking about Moreno.
Moreno was killed in 1811, as I recalled, because his views were found to  
be too Jacobine for the pro-British port-dwellers of Buenos Aires. But I got 
 hold of his tr. of Rousseau, "Social Contract", and found a delightful 
argument  in Moreno. I wrote my end-of-year paper on this which I still keep.
For Moreno, there is a contract between Spaniards (including Argentines  
circa 1809) and the King of Spain.

But then The King of Spain got jailed.
Moreno argued: This surely _breaks_ the contract; for how are we stupidly  
think that we can still be under a contract with someone who is in jail?
Therefore, Revolution!
---- I found out that Grice's brother in law, James Steven Watson, lectured 
 at Harvard on his specialty, "The reign of George III". In the case of the 
Tea  Party at Boston, the argument was similarly made, I hope, that if not 
'jailed'  he  (Geo III) was, well, 'insane', as he possibly was, even if he  
J. L. Speranza
   for the Grice Club, etc.

In a message dated 1/2/2010 12:00:26 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
Baynesr at comcast.net writes in "David Lewis, Grice and Rawlsian Contracts":

I haven't been able to reply to Speranza on a couple of occasions.  
This post goes part way to explaining why, aside from getting the
final  touches on the Anscombe book.

As a result of an interesting and  provocative discussion, I 
turned my attention, recently, to Rawls. In  particular to a comparison
of Rawlsian contract theory and that of Hobbes.  I've decided to do an 
extended work on Rawls, Popper and Ronald Dworkin. My  aim
is, among other things, to state my case against Rawls on  contract.

Now an interesting development, one that may particularly  interest JL,
is that there is an extended discussion of Grice on "Meaning" in  
David Lewis's stimulating work _Convention: A Philosophical Study_.
Now I  haven't looked at this closely, because I'm still thinking about
Lewis's  views on conventions vs. contracts. It occurred to me that there 
is a  connection here to Dworkin's criticisms of H. L. Hart on the nature
of law.  What I'm fiddling with is the difference between normative and
nonnormative  conventions in connection with this distinction between
laws and  contracts. I will probably end up rejecting contract theory as
well as  utilitarianism. My predilection is for "perfectionist" views in 
ethics but  the material on this is sparse and obscure. 

What I'm doing is tackling  Rawls on contract on economic doctrine. 
My own position, generally, is that  of Joseph Schumpeter with some
"upgrading" based on the economist, Baumol,  and others. Rawls is
deliciously vulnerable, but more deliciously insightful  on these matters.
Dworkin (Ronald), I keep reading and every new look  contains a new
insight. The matter of the "hard case" in law really has some  nice
aspects amenable to recent work on mind. We'll see. Anyway, JL  might
be looking at some postings on Lewis and Grice.

I might begin  with an attack on Lewis based on a nonsequitur  related 
to reciprocity  which I think occurs in his book on convention, reciprocity
it may recalled  is an essential element in Rawlsian contract  theory.



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