[hist-analytic] David Lewis, Grice and Rawlsian Contracts

jlsperanza at aol.com jlsperanza at aol.com
Sat Jan 2 17:03:15 EST 2010

A closer commentary to Bayne's recent:

In a message dated 1/2/2010  12:00:26 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
Baynesr at comcast.net  writes:

"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 
the Anscombe book.As a result of an interesting  and provocative 
discussion, I  turned my attention, recently, to Rawls.  In particular to a 
of  Rawlsian contract theory and that of  Hobbes."

You are doing very well. I did mention in my "Grice and Grice",  Locke --  
for both Grices, H. P. and G. R. -- seem Lockean in that  respect, but of 
course  the source of it all is Hobbes. 

The  contract theory seems indeed mediaeval. When I was discussing the 
of  this Argentine jacobine, Mariano Moreno, it was the whole thing of   
"scholastic law": the fact that there is a pact, etc. Monarchs, for  
rely on some kind of pact towards their subjects. How  Rousseau got the 
popular in the colonies must be a South  American thing. I wouldn't think  
Rousseau was ever too popular in the  USA, so it must have been via Hobbes 
Locke that Rawls got the idea  from.

Bayne: "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 
JL,  is that there is an extended discussion  of Grice on "Meaning" in 
Lewis's  stimulating work _Convention: A  Philosophical Study_."

Right. And it's interesting you are mentioning the  rather parochial  
"Meaning". For, Griceans at large had rather relied  on Lewis for an 
account of  
what has come to be called,  clumsily,

expression meaning.

In Gricean  jargon:

what an utterer U means
what x (expression token)  means
what X (expression type, e.g. word, such as "pluie", to use an example  in  
Wharton, "Pragmatics and Nonverbal Communication", meaning 'rain')  means

Only for "expression" do Griceans really _need_ a convention. Note  that in 
Grice's general account of _utterer's_ meaning, rather, WoW,  Way of Words, 
v,  googlebooks), the 'mode of correspondence' or  'correlation', which 
Grice, in his  typical American pseudoformalism,  has as "c" can be:

a. iconic
b. conventional
c.  other.

Utterer's meaning can exist without convention. Expression meaning  is more 
doubtful. In "Meaning Revisited", where Grice has this  beautiful caveat, 
don't believe meaning is essentially tied to  convention", which I cited in 
my  "On the way of conversation", in a  symposium I shared with Searle --, 
Grice  would rathe use the notion of  optimality (and thus value) to have 
things  like

the word 'pluie' means, in French, 'rain'.


"Now I haven't  looked at this closely, because I'm still  thinking about
Lewis's views  on conventions vs. contracts."

Well, his 'convention' seems to be  arbitrary. I'm not sure about contract. 
But he is a fascinating writer  on this, and a pity he doesn't seem to have 
developed this other than  in THAT book, or founded a school for that 
matter. One  wonders if  there's secondary bibliography on Lewis on 
conventions vs. 
contracts,   etc. Beautiful distinctions for linguistic botanising alla 
Austin and   Grice.


"It occurred to me that there 
is a connection  here to Dworkin's  criticisms of H. L. Hart on the nature
of  law."

Well, and I was referring to Hart's apparent criticisms to John  Austin's  
utilitarianism. From what I recall, Dworkin succeeded Hare as  White's 
of  Moral philosophy so he was bound to find criticisms  in the work of his 
co-chair,  of Jurisprudence, Hart. Or was Dworkin  prof. of jurisprudence? 
stopped keeping  tracks with all those  Americans exiling in once so 
Oxford -- just   joking!


"What I'm fiddling with is the difference between  normative  and
nonnormative conventions in connection with this  distinction  between
laws and contracts."

That's a good one. Of  course, "Norma" (Latin for "norm") has nothing to do 
with this! I  never understood "Norma", nor her younger daughter, 

Statisticians use 'normal' so badly that I don't like that word  anymore!  
And nonnormative does not fare any better. You might just as  well call 
anormative. Recall Durkheim on 'anomie'. 

I once  got into a fight with a neurolinguist. She (and in Buenos Aires,  
too)  was using 'anomia' to mean, absence of names, which she found in some 
her favourite bipolar patients. I said, "Look darling, be careful with your 
wording: 'anomia' is lack of law for Durkheim". She wasn't impressed, but  
in  English there _is_ a lexical distinction  here.


"I will probably end up rejecting contract theory  as
well  as utilitarianism."

And you'll be very right. You should  also end up rejecting Hare. I used to 
love R. M. Hare but when in his  later writings he cannot fight against  
Utilitarianism enough he bores  me. O. T. O. H., Grice was never an  
utilitarianism and it showed!  (Even if his thesis in "Meaning", B. J. 
Harrison  has it 
in his "Intro  to the Philo of Lang., Macmillan), "shares with  
Utilitarianism the  greatest number of counterexamples" or words to that  

"My predilection is for "perfectionist" views in ethics but  the material 
this is sparse and obscure."

As it should be, for who  cares for 'perfection' in the world as we find it 
now! It has gone,  literally, to the dogs. 

"What I'm doing is tackling  Rawls on  contract on economic doctrine. My 
position, generally, is that of   Joseph Schumpeter with some "upgrading" 
based on the economist, Baumol,  and  others. Rawls is deliciously 
but more deliciously  insightful on  these matters."

I keep being a delicious Keynesian on  this. I cannot understand economic  
theory, nor does my  wallet.

"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."

Does it. I hope it's  none of your Anscombian 'brute' versus  
'institutionalised'. Just  joking!

"We'll see. Anyway, JL might be looking at some postings on Lewis  and  

Yes. Lewis wrote his PhD on "Conventions of  language". It was possibly a  
good idea that he dropped the "of  language" and the pluralisation,  
'conventions', when he had his book  published by Harvard.

There are a few further crisscrossing Lewis/Grice.  When I attended, in  
Buenos Aires, of all places, a seminar given by D.  Edginton on 
she was heavy on Lewis. Lewis and Jackson  have taken with some degree of  
seriousness Grice's ideas of  'if':

The idea that the 'conversational' implicature is linked to a   
probability-account. Jackson (a colleague of Lewis Down Under) makes   
between 'conventional' and 'conversational' implicatures on  that. I  
recall I was 
slightly disappointed when I found that, at the  Society for  Philosophical 
Analysis, where Edginton was lecturing, that  she was not aware of  
"If and -->". Or at least not aware  that the thing (which had been  doing 
the rounds since 1968) had been  published by Grandy/Warner, PGRICE. I  
she liked that.

Her  Spanish was not that good. My logic tutor, Alberto Moretti, was in   
attendance. When discussing Grice's views, Edginton kept referring to them  


i.e what  she thought meant 'ridiculous'. But the correct Spanish is  
'ridiculo',  not ridiculoso. Anyway, I treasure a contribution by my tutor, 
Moretti. He said to Edginton:

"I object to your view,  but I'm sure you'll find
my objection to 'ridiculoso' to  be true".

Of course she never found out that we, the Argentine audience,  were having 
a big laugh at her cheek of wanting to give us a lecture  in _Spanish_ -- 
which  in her case sounded as if she had picked her up  in her holidays in  

But I love her!

Of course  the most important Lewis/Grice interface is Grice's rejection of 
'possible worlds'. "I have enough troubles with _this_ world and issues  of 
truth-functional sequiturs to start wondering about others", he  would 
words to that perlocutionary effect (cfr. his "Valedictory  Essay" on 
'non-truth  functional utterances' as a problem for  neo-traditionalism and 
modernism and his  own  tenets)


"I might begin with an attack on Lewis based on a  nonsequitur  related  
to reciprocity which I think occurs in his  book on convention,"

This is lovely. It resembles Grice's Conversational  Immanuel and the  
'impersonality' of the maxims. No proper names  allowed, etc.


it may recalled is an  essential element in  Rawlsian contract theory."

Indeed. Grice takes  Hare's universalisability things with some earnest in  
"Method in  philosophical psychology" which I sumarised, the three of them 
this essay  in the Palacios book. For Grice there are three types of 
generality   associated with issues of universalisability. His "Method" 
essay repr. 
by  J.  Baker in Grice's Conception of Value, googlebooks --: These three  
types   are:


Applicational means  that norms should apply to all of us or none of  us.
Formal that they  should be essentially vacuous. We cannot have guidelines  
for _each_  little thing that bothers. J. K. Jerome, Three men on a bummell 
and   their problems with the law-abiding Germans is a delight here.
conceptual:  the terms in which norms should be couched are  psychological.

Loar  has been useful to me on this. And here the connection with the   
philosophy of mind (which Grice despised unless called "philosophical   
psycholoogy) is obvious. For Loar, things like Grice's maxims should  be  
nonnormatively, as 'generalisations over functional  states'. But not  all 
us, even if I am, are Loarian here. What a  genius B. F. Loar is.

Incidentally, I spent YEARS studying Rawls, to no  real avail, other than  
finding that in one of his essays in "Public  Affairs" he cares to quote 
Grice, "Personal Identity", Grice's  very first 'publication' in _Mind_, 
1941. He  (Rawls) possibly learned  about it from Perry, and in any case, 
made Grice's  essay popular  enough to be quoted by Parfit in Reasons and 
Persons and have a  pretty  good Oxford comeback. (These were the years 
where you 
had to be quoted  by  an American -- call it Dworkin, Rawls, Davidson, or 
have you  -- to be  treated seriously back in Oxford! Even Grice had to 
ceased to  belong to Oxford  to become the John Locke Lecturer (You cannot 
lecture  the John Locke Lecturers  as an Oxford lecturer. It's for 
visitors, only,  
and if overseas, the  better!)


J. L.  Speranza
For the Grice Club,  etc.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://rbjones.com/pipermail/hist-analytic_rbjones.com/attachments/20100102/a0c793ce/attachment-0002.html>

More information about the hist-analytic mailing list