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

steve bayne baynesrb at yahoo.com
Sat Jan 2 17:24:51 EST 2010

"Well, his 'convention' seems to be arbitrary"
I don't see this. How so?
--- On Sat, 1/2/10, jlsperanza at aol.com <jlsperanza at aol.com> wrote:

From: jlsperanza at aol.com <jlsperanza at aol.com>
Subject: Re: David Lewis, Grice and Rawlsian Contracts
To: hist-analytic at simplelists.co.uk
Date: Saturday, January 2, 2010, 5:03 PM

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 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."

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 ideas 
of this Argentine jacobine, Mariano Moreno, it was the whole thing of  
"scholastic law": the fact that there is a pact, etc. Monarchs, for example,  
rely on some kind of pact towards their subjects. How Rousseau got the thing  
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 and 
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 interest 
JL,  is that there is an extended discussion of Grice on "Meaning" in David 
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, "I 
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 prof. 
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? I 
stopped keeping  tracks with all those Americans exiling in once so English 
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 them  
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 of  
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  perlocutionary 

"My predilection is for "perfectionist" views in ethics but the material on 
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 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."

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 "Conditionals",  
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  distinctions 
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  Strawson, 
"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  think 
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 as  


i.e what she thought meant 'ridiculous'. But the correct Spanish is  
'ridiculo', not ridiculoso. Anyway, I treasure a contribution by my tutor, then,  
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 utter 
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 in 
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

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